401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Commissioners authorize seismic exploration to proceed

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The Delta County Commissioners met in the afternoon of Nov. 14 to consider an application by Gunnison Energy LLC for a temporary use specific development application to conduct 2-D seismic operations in an area located in northeast Delta County, known as the Iron Point Unit.

The purpose of the meeting was to determine whether this application can proceed administratively through the planning department, as provided for in the county's specific development regulations. Tony Vervolet, local county government designee to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), would be active in the project also.

Commissioner chairman Doug Atchley told those gathered that the order for presentations would be from the staff, Gunnison Energy, and the public.

Elyse Casselberry, community and economic development director for Delta County, presented to the commissioners information from the application from Gunnison Energy, LLC.

Gunnison Energy is applying to Delta County to conduct 2-D seismic operations on land owned by Brian Farmer of Hotchkiss.

Gunnison Energy's original application was to conduct both 2-D and 3-D seismic operations at the location. On Nov. 8, Gunnison Energy modified its request, withdrawing the 3-D operation. The 3-D seismic operation application will be submitted at a later date.

Gunnison Energy's application is for the 2-D seismic operation only. Gunnison Energy has also submitted additional details to the county about the 2-D operation in its Operation Plan.

Casselberry said the 2D seismic operation will consist of a 2.9 mile line of sources and receivers. About 93 source locations will be drilled. Each source location will be a three-inch diameter drill that will be 20 to 60 feet deep, and loaded with 1.1 to 4.4 pounds of dynamite. Source holes will be spaced every 220 feet. Receivers will also be laid out along the 2.9 mile line. A total of 280 receivers will be placed every 55 feet.

Gunnison Energy estimates that the project will take one to two weeks to complete, and will require six to ten workers, who will be transported to the site using two to three trucks. The workers will stay in housing in the surrounding area.

No helicopters will be used for the project and no staging area will be necessary.

Casselberry said the staff has reviewed the information provided by Gunnison Energy, reviewed comments received by review agencies and adjacent land owners and comments received from the general public

Concerns were expressed about Terror Creek Ditch and Reservoir, that feeder ditches could be affected. Requests were made that Terror Creek Ditch and Reservoir be notified and be present when testing is within one-half mile of its infrastructure.

Gunnison Energy was represented by Robert Veldman, Barrett Lavergne, Jessica Donahue and Mike Murray.

Mike Murray, consultant to Gunnison Energy, spoke about the explosives. He said the explosives will be stored in steel, double-lock blocks, which are bullet proof. His company will deliver the explosives themselves. The company has hazmat endorsement, federal permits and has done lots of work in Colorado.

He said the product is safe, it needs electric detonation. It has a shelf life of a year, after which the metal plate dissolves, moisture eats into the product and it becomes bug food.

Murray said if his firm decides additional security is needed they will hire off-duty firemen or police officers to provide extra protection.

Jessica Donahue added that each spot is witnessed by a blaster, shot by shot, in sequence.

Robert Veldman said the seismic operation will determine what the geology is underground.

Commissioner Atchley invited comments from the public.

Brian Farmer, owner of the property on which the seismic project will take place, said he, his uncle John Hotchkiss, and all his family approve of the project and will give Gunnison Energy their full cooperation.

Mark Gebkin of Cedaredge spoke of the wider implications of seismic activity, noting that the entire area is geologically unstable. There have been landslides in the area, and it is impossible to remediate landslides. He recommended giving attention to the Colorado Geological Society's reports.

Eugenie McGuire requested that notification be given to people living within one mile of Terror Creek, rather than one-half mile. She mentioned landslides in the area. She asked that the commissioners not allow the application to proceed administratively.

Wendell Koontz, who serves on the Oil and Gas Working Group, said that professionally he has conducted seismic projects. He said gas resources are very low and we need to understand that; and need to know whether there are gas reserves available in the Iron Point Unit. Koontz recommended the commissioners authorize the application to proceed administratively and that the staff make sure all stipulations and regulations are met.

Dan Sullivan said he started ranching in 1995. Starting in 1972, he was doing seismic studies and would like to have one done on his land to know what he has there. He will be in Romania next year, surveying there. He has been in Peru, where there are landslides every day. He hopes Gunnison Energy does this project; we need all the work we can get, he said.

Natasha Leger, representing Citizens for a Healthy Community, also serves on the Oil and Gas Working Group and said the group is working to come to a consensus in regard to its report which will provide data for land use regulations. Leger said this is not a new project, that on Sept. 27 the COGCC was made aware of it, but Tony Vervolet (local government designee) was not notified.

Leger recommended preparing an inventory of water within one mile of the project. She recommended restarting the process with an opportunity for the public to review the application.

Lesandre Holiday recommended that everyone be treated equally and Gunnison Energy go through the regular process.

Gabrielle Sadler said she waters her property with water from the area. She said Paonia is not comfortable with the process and the county should let people become more involved.

Gunnison Energy representatives responded.

Barrett Lavergne said the project is three miles from Terror Creek Ditch and will have no impact on the ditch.

Robert Veldman said he looks forward to each step in the 2D project and Gunnison Energy is aware that they will be working on the owner's land.

Commissioner Don Suppes said both the 2D operation and 3D operation must comply with the same regulations. Gunnison Energy has been made aware of the performance standards and will be held to compliance with those standards.

Commissioner Mark Roeber said, "This project is new territory for all parties and all of us are working our way through it. If anyone goes off on the wrong foot, we will rectify it. This won't be Gunnison Energy's only time before the Board of County Commissioners. We will be monitoring the project to know how Gunnison Energy is handling this."

Commissioner Atchley stated that, if the commissioners authorize the project to move forward administratively, the county will continue to take input from the public.

Commissioner Roeber moved that the Board of County Commissioners authorize the Gunnison Energy 2D seismic operations application be handled administratively and authorize the staff to review, approve and finalize a development agreement with Gunnison Energy for the project. Commissioner Suppes seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

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