Garfield County road troubles not just a family squabble
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GARFIELD COUNTY ” A woman whose family is embroiled in a dispute over the closure of Garfield County Road 306, west of Battlement Mesa, said on Friday that the underlying cause of the dispute has nothing to do with irrigation, despite statements to that effect by her sister.
“It’s about the energy company thinking they can do anything they want with people’s property,” said Linda Dixon, a member of the Dutton family on Wallace Creek Road.
County Road 306 loops southward from CR 300, runs up along the Wallace Creek drainage, over a ridge and returns down the Spring Creek drainage. The ends of the loop connect with 300 Road at two points about a half a mile apart, and the Dutton/Dixon family lives at the southernmost point in the loop. The road goes through the Dutton lands when it passes over the ridge.
Dixon said the Noble Energy Co., which is one of numerous firms extracting natural gas from the Piceance Basin formation, had an agreement with the Dutton family to drill wells on the family’s land, but to refrain from “transporting off-lease gas (gas from wells not on Dutton land) over our property.”
She said the company “tried to do an end run around our agreement” in the fall of 2008 by going to Garfield County for permission to lay a pipeline along CR 306, and then tried to get the pipeline installed quickly. With the pipeline, Dixon said, company gas haulers would not have to drive a long, circuitous route north to 300 Road to avoid crossing the Dutton lands and violating the agreement.
“They tried to do it so fast, they messed up the road,” she said.
Efforts to reach Noble Energy officials for comment were not successful on Friday.
With the road a mess and winter coming on, Dixon said, Garfield County agreed to shut traffic down while working out a variety of issues, including questions about whether the road right-of-way had ever been properly recorded in the county’s records.
“The road is unsafe, and we don’t want the property damaged any more,” Dixon said, explaining that her family’s land alongside the road has been torn up as well when neighboring ranchers Dorothy Nauroth (Dixon’s sister) and her husband, John, have tried to drive around the road closure barricades.
The Nauroths have said they need to pass over the closed portion of CR 306 in order to get to their irrigation systems on the other side of the ridge. The Nauroths have accused a member of the Dutton family of threatening them with a truck one day when they tried to drive around the barrier, an accusation that Dixon denies.
“No one is cut off (from their irrigation systems),” Dixon declared, “it’s just that they can’t make that loop any more.
She said the Nauroths are “the only ones complaining” about the road closure, adding, “It sounds as though they’re afraid the road is going to be closed permanently.”
“This issue would never have come up had it not been for the gas company trying to pull a fast one,” Dixon said, adding, “We’re working it out with the county” to get the road fixed, resurfaced and opened again.
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A majority of users of the popular Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale say they would be OK with closing the trails during the muddiest times of the year.