Commission asks BLM to fast-track Fram’s Whitewater project proposal
Work on approving an oil-drilling project near Whitewater should take precedence over other work by the Grand Junction office of the Bureau of Land Management, the Mesa County Commission said.
Mesa County Commission Chairman John Justman said the commission hoped the federal agency would reshuffle its priorities and push the project proposed by Fram Exploration ASA ahead of another project.
The Grand Junction office also is revising its resource management plan, a project it undertakes every 20 to 25 years.
The two projects — Fram and the resource management plan — are unrelated, BLM spokesman Christopher Joyner said.
“We are very interested in getting (Fram’s Whitewater) project out,” Joyner said. “We understand that it’s a major economic driver.”
Katie Stevens, the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office manager, earlier this year said she hoped to have the Fram project complete by March or April.
It’s now looking as though the decision will be mid- to late May, Joyner said.
The issue, however, isn’t whether the agency put one project in front and the other on the back burner, Joyner said.
Rather, the long winter set back the BLM’s efforts to analyze a new route that came to the fore from comments made during the environmental study of the project, Joyner said.
“The weather held us back considerably” in analyzing the alternate route along B Road, instead of the originally proposed C Road route, Joyner said.
Analyzing the B Road route involves archaeological and other surveys that couldn’t be completed while the ground at the base of Grand Mesa was covered with snow, a condition that lasted longer than normal, Joyner said.
In most cases, the BLM staff working on the resource management plan wouldn’t be working on the Fram project, Joyner said.
The county would like to see the federal agency divert effort from the resource management plan to Fram’s development, Justman said.
Mesa County needs the employment that would come with the Fram project as soon as possible, and the resource management plan can wait, Justman said.
“As far as Mesa County is concerned, the BLM should complete the Fram master development plan permit process now, and assist the community by allowing all opportunities for much-needed jobs in Mesa County,” says a letter signed last week by all three commissioners to the BLM.
Fram owns 95.6 percent of a working lease of 54,000 acres within the 90,445 lease. The company plans to drill 108 wells on 12 pads.