Garfield County supports Roan-area drilling plan

Alex Zorn
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners signed a letter in support of Terra Energy’s proposed plan for the Balzac Gulch Phase II project, while noting concerns about visual impacts.

“This letter is well-written and I think it expresses our concerns about visual impact and mitigation,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Monday as the commissioners offered comments on the plan.

In 2015, the Bureau of Land Management canceled 17 of the 19 natural gas leases on top of the Roan Plateau west of Rifle as part of a settlement negotiated between conservation groups and oil and gas leaseholders.

Numerous other leases at the base of the Roan were allowed to proceed under the deal, including ones now proposed for development by Terra Rocky Mountain.

While the leases Terra currently proposes to develop as part of the Balzac Gulch Phase II Master Development Plan are among those included in that larger settlement, they are located below the rim and not on top of the Roan Plateau, BLM spokesman David Boyd told the Post Independent.

The project proposes 63 wells to be drilled from four new well pads and encompasses about 2,648 acres of BLM land and 269 acres of private land approximately 9 miles west of Rifle on the south-facing base and slopes of the Roan Plateau, according to the plan.

It will also include 2.3 miles of new access roads, use of temporary surface water lines, and installation of 5.3 miles of buried pipelines to transport gas, oil and water.

While Garfield County supports the proposed action, the commissioners specifically noted to maintain the goal of protecting and maintaining the visual and aesthetic qualities in sensitive areas, while allowing for changes to visual quality in less sensitive areas. The commissioners also want the changes in the landscape to maintain and protect visual qualities.

“Garfield County request BLM fully analyze potential visual resource impacts [of the project] and ensure effective long-term visual screening and other best management practices that optimally protect the view shed in the area of the project,” the letter states.

“Of particular concern is effective visual screening of new roads, pipelines and well pads on the slopes below the rim.”

The project is estimated to produce nearly 120 billion cubic feet of natural gas over a 40- year project lifespan.

“Garfield County supports expedient approval of the proposed action to develop 63 wells as described in the Balzac Gulch Phase II Master Development Plan,” the letter reads. “The economic benefit to local governments, special districts and the community are compelling.

“Garfield County local governments and special taxing district revenue streams are heavily dependent on oil and gas development and associated jobs and revenue to sustain our local communities,” the letter also notes.

The letter was signed by all three county commissioners in support of the proposal.