Commissioners incorporate NF input into Mancos Development Plan

By Annette Brand


The agenda for the March 26 meeting of the Delta County Board of County Commissioners included finalizing comment letters to the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service regarding the North Fork Mancos Development Plan (NFM).

The commissioners submitted previous comment letters on the NFM on March 22, 2017, and June 7, 2018, as the county's continuing input on the BLM environmental impact assessment and environmental assessment.

Having read the comment letter prior to the meeting, several North Fork residents, including Mary Jursinovic, Natasha Leger, Lisa Nierman, Mary Smith, David Livingston, Patrick Dooling and Mike Oupi, shared their concerns.

They addressed the amount of water the project will consume and where that water will come from; truck traffic, including numerous loads of sand being trucked from Fruita, the lack of stability on Highway 131, the impact on hunting of big game and bonding by the developer.

Elyse Casselberry, county community and economic development director, explained that this third comment letter is another step in a multi-step process. The commissioners will be able to weigh in on the well pads, pipeline, storage facilities, surface impacts, performance standards, drought management plan, emergency response ... in other words, every part of the work going forward.

Casselberry said the Oil and Gas Working Committee, appointed after the updated Master Plan was adopted, is reviewing all the steps of the development, including road access, spills and impact on roads.

She said most of the NFM work will take place in Gunnison County. Federal agencies and state agencies will weigh in on several matters over which the county has no authority, but the county can also provide comments.

After considerable discussion among the residents, commissioners, Casselberry and county administrator Robbie LeValley, commission chair Don Suppes recessed the meeting to enable LeValley and Casselberry to compose a paragraph to add to the comment letter to include a request for a drought and augmentation plan from Gunnison Energy.

The commissioners' letter also acknowledges the North Fork Mancos Devlopmnt Plan will b phased in over several years. Specific 2-D and 3-D seismic studies will identify operation sites and reduce the potential for additional exploratory wells.

The commissioners expressed appreciation for the work Gunnison Energy has put into the project to reduce the number of trucks on the road by securing the use of rail and water from Oxbow.