401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

North Fork residents feel 'disenfranchised'

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On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.

Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.

Lesandre Holiday, having read the board's proposed response, said it needed to be rewritten. "I am disappointed that you commissioners didn't reach out to Paonia," she said.

Holiday told the board it governs by the consent of the governed and she supports the board's original (July 16, 2018) scoping document.

Natasha Leger of Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) read a letter from Douglas Peale, who asked the board to honor the will of the people and consider recommending that the parcels affecting Paonia be withdrawn.

Leger also said the board did not reach out to Paonia for its comments and sent a letter that contradicted what the community of Paonia sent in its letter. She expressed concern about landslides in the areas of the Paonia Reservoir.

Leger requested that the CHC comments be included in the board's current letter to BLM. She asked the board to step up regarding the issue of local control and the public's safety, health and welfare.

David Livingston, who moved to the North Fork Valley two years ago, said he is a farmer who relies on availability of clean water. He is concerned that the BLM's requirements permit such a short time frame to consider the risks the people have to endure. He said he feels completely unrepresented, disenfranchised and that North Fork voices are being completely disregarded.

Michael Straub is also a farmer who's concerned about water pollution and lack of water.

Straub said, "The main issue is taxation without representation. We don't have a voice, are not 'allowed' to be heard. You have disenfranchised us. We're part of the U.S. and deserve a voice. Consider all the voices, not just certain voices."

Prima Merry has farmed in the North Fork for 20 years. She is concerned about oil and gas affecting the watershed. She referred to the beauty of the North Fork Valley, saying, "We want to keep our jobs, people are moving in, and where we are now is no place for oil and gas."

Commissioner chair Doug Atchley told those present that Governor John Hickenlooper was notified by letter that the BLM had "removed the parcels under the Paonia Reservoir."

Commissioner Don Suppes said, "In our contacts with the BLM, we ask for responsible development, protection of water and roads. Everyone in Delta County uses these resources. This is not a NIMBY (not in my backyard) matter. Some of these leases are privately held property; the owners have rights.

"We did not speak from a municipal standpoint. The county's municipalities speak for themselves; each has an autonomous elected board.

"We have worked hard with the North Fork Coal Mine Methane Working Group to develop a useable resource, and those leases (8389, 8390, 8391) have been yanked from the group," Suppes said.

Commissioner Mark Roeber added, "Commissioners have worked over years to develop a methane plan and now it's debatable whether we can continue.

"As for Paonia, we respect Paonia's own government. If you want us to hear your views in Paonia, we need to be invited to one of Paonia's meetings.

"I live in the North Fork, have for my whole life. A majority of the people are concerned about the leases you bring up. We have a history of working together: asking how can we make it the best it can be -- some say yes to a development, some say no. We are going down a dangerous path here. If the whole process is put off until the Resource Management Plan (RMP) is done (as has been requested by several people), how long does it go on? The majority of the leases are in Gunnison County and we have to rely on their stipulations.

"I support sending this second letter to BLM." Roeber said.

Atchley said, "Delta County is a cooperating agency with BLM. We would like to have more input. This letter is one step in a long, drawn out process. I will repeat that the parcels under the Paonia Reservoir have been pulled from the BLM December sale."

County administrator Robbie LeValley told the commissioners she would like to double check language regarding a letter Leger showed her earlier. The board agreed.

Roeber moved to send the letter to BLM after LeValley double checks that information. The motion passed 3-0.

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Tags: 
BLM, Commissioners, oil and gas lease
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