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Paonia weighs in on Mancos MDP

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The Paonia Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. today, June 6, to consider a draft letter to the Bureau of Land Management regarding the preliminary environmental assessment (EA) on the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan. Comments deadline is Saturday, June 9.

The board called a special meeting last week to consider public comment on the EA. The five-page draft letter reflects verbal and written comments from 14 citizens and representatives of the Western Slope Conservation Center and Citizens for a Healthy Community. The draft cites concerns over potential impacts identified in the EA, including surface water impacts and sediment; air quality; impacts on wildlife, farmlands and traffic; groundwater and drinking water sources within the watershed; impacts on the town's economy; concerns over possible costs to emergency management services; and possible health impacts due to the development's proximity to town.

The letter states that the EA "only takes into account the cumulative effect of the very limited number of wells in this portion of the development plan," and "does not reflect the cumulative effect of the current wellhead development or the other identified wellhead development beyond this narrow plan. Cumulative impacts may be more difficult to assess if you include this and other oil and gas development... The board of trustees feel that it is imperative that these impacts be identified."

The draft requests that the current EA "be rejected and a full Environment Impact Study be conducted to address these as well as any other issues that may arise" during the study.

Trustees voted 5-1 to direct town administrator Ken Knight to draft the letter, with trustee Bill Bear casting the dissenting vote. A copy of the draft letter is available at townofpaonia.com.

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