Drilling near New Castle to get focus | AspenTimes.com

Drilling near New Castle to get focus

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colo. ” Susan Will says her heart lies with the wildlife in Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area.

That’s why Will, who lives near the wildlife area, has been alerting her neighbors to a meeting the Colorado Division of Wildlife has organized about future drilling that is expected to occur in the habitat near New Cas­tle, located just west of Glenwood Springs, this summer.

“My true love is for the wildlife,” said Will, 51. “I have lived near there for a long time. Seeing all the wildlife is just awesome. I just don’t want that to go away. That is the only place that is left for them. (Companies) have drilled everything else.”

The DOW will host an infor­mational meeting Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area hay shed, 3321 Garfield County Road 312, about drilling in the area.

Denver-based Orion Energy Part­ners plans to drill one exploratory gas well and install a pipeline in the wildlife area in the summer, accord­ing to a letter from the DOW. Repre­sentatives from the company have been invited to the meeting to help answer questions about the compa­ny’s development plan.

“As a severed rights surface owner, the DOW has very little control over drilling operations; however we would like to update local citizens about the efforts that have been undertaken by the agency to address wildlife concerns,” according to the DOW letter.

According to the letter, Orion Ener­gy Partners obtained the mineral rights to drill in the wildlife area from Gene Hilton, who owns the minerals below the surface.

“I have talked to the people at Ori­on,” Will said. ” They are very accom­modating. They are working closely with the Division of Wildlife.”

In a letter, Will wrote that she just wants to ask Orion to help the DOW find a better way that won’t destroy the wildlife habitat that is so impor­tant.”

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW, said the agency has received a lot of calls from local resi­dents in the area and from sports­men who were concerned about drilling in the area.

“We had questions about why we didn’t stop it,” Hampton said. “We certainly wanted to explain to people the issue that we are a severed-rights owner and that companies can drill, and that as a surface owner, we don’t have a lot of control over that. We want to explain that to people, as well as explain what we have done to work with the company.”

Hampton said the agency has been reviewing Orion’s energy plan and discussed the placement of the drilling well pad with the company.

Earlier this year, the DOW also lodged a protest against the sale of a federal mineral lease parcel under­neath in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area. The BLM, while defer­ring the sale of three leases at the request of the DOW, sold a 360-acre parcel for $2,400 an acre in February. That parcel, along with 34 other properties, were under protest in the Feb. 14 lease sale. The DOW protest­ed the sale of 27 parcels, all of which were spread out over the state.

The DOW could not block the sale of the mineral lease underneath the habitat area because the agency did­n’t own the rights to it. The protest the DOW placed has yet to be resolved.