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Commissioners comment on North Fork mancos development

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On June 7, the Delta County Board of Commissioners submitted to the Bureau of Land Management its comments on several elements of the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan.

Water. Commissioners wrote that protection of the quality and available quantity of water is always a concern of the county, particularly when construction and/or oil and gas development is conducted in any upstream watershed of water sources draining into and used by Delta County residents. They requested that Bureau of Land Management and U. S. Forest Service specifically address this issue and review the adequacy of proposed plans.

Off-site impacts to the county, municipalities, roads and traffic. Commissioners noted their concern about the unknown cumulative off-site impacts caused by increased oil and gas development in or near Delta County. The county's maintenance of Forest Service Road 265 within Delta County, under an agreement with the Forest Service, is affected by the proposed plan. The county requests that the county be consulted for support roads and existing roads, and that county road standards be adhered to and maintained.

It is likely that Stevens Gulch Road, similarly maintained, may also be used at times in support of the NFMMDP, which will also be of concern for the county. The county requests the EA acknowledge and address any impact of the project on these roads, even if the ultimate use will be limited.

Wildfire and emergency preparedness. The board stresses that all measures necessary to minimize wildfire hazards due to the proposed operations be imposed through the approval of the plan. This is an area with private property and where mutual support by county emergency resources and fire districts would be available, utilized and expected.

Recreation and tourism. The areas around the project on both Forest Service and BLM lands are key recreational areas on the eastern side of Grand Mesa, served by the county and its towns. The county emphasizes the need to provide for minimal interruption and delays on Forest Service roads during development under the plan. Any negative impact on recreation or on tourists is of major concern as that impact extends beyond the unit boundaries and into the surrounding economy of Delta County.

Air quality, soils and erosion. Delta County stresses the need for adequate measures in the EA to curb any degradation to the soils, and run off or dust-related issues, tied to operations during normal and heavy weather conditions.

Socio-economic and cultural resources. Delta County recognizes the socio-economic benefits of energy development to our nation and our communities. It is also understood that such development impacts other important economic sectors in our communities, such as recreation and tourism. All such impacts should be addressed.

Final abandonment of a well and/or a pad. Delta County believes that the final abandonment of the wells and reclamation should be done in a timely manner. The EA lists one year for the final abandonment. That is reasonable; however, Delta County believes that follow-up needs to occur to ensure that timelines are met.

The commissioners expressed support for any master development plan that provides prior understanding of continuing oil and gas activities in these areas, over well-by-well development activities. The commissioners emphasized that recognition of offsite impacts, and anticipated mitigation of any potential accumulative negative effects from development of this size, are very important to those who have adjacent property, or depend on and use the resources originating on the surrounding areas.

The commissioners expressed appreciation for the opportunity to comment on the proposed NFMMDP and stated their support for that project moving forward, while addressing the concerns and mitigation measures listed above.

They noted that previously mentioned concerns of Delta County have been exhaustively documented in the EA.

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