Energy company considers Collbran bypass for trucks

The town of Collbran is considering a mile-long bypass to divert heavy energy-industry vehicles from the center of town.

Plains Exploration and Production Co. has paid for an engineering study, which is expected to be completed by the firm Schmueser, Gordon and Meyer next month. If the town board of trustees agrees to go forward with the bypass, Plains Exploration and Production will help pay for the new road, a company official said.

Just how much the company would pay and how much the road would cost has not been determined.
Chuck McDaniel, a Plains Exploration and Production attorney, said the decision of whether to build the bypass is the town’s.

“We would provide funding, and we would ask our peers and service companies, the other people working in the valley, (to do the same),” McDaniel said.

The town has little funding to deal with energy impacts. Its distribution of federal and state severance taxes this year is $48,456, according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

“The town of Collbran is a town that is strapped for resources,” said John Martini, manager of government affairs for Plains Exploration and Production.

If all proceeds smoothly, construction could start next year.

“We are hoping to start (construction) in the spring,” said Vic Sturm, supervisor of Collbran’s public works department.

If built, the road could see 1,000 or more vehicles a day, according to Mesa County.

“The traffic volume has doubled up there in the last two years because of the energy industry,” said Eric Bruton, director of Mesa County’s road and bridge department.

About 1,500 vehicles a day use the roads around Collbran, depending on where energy companies are working and what jobs are being performed, Bruton said.

A combination of private industry efforts and government assistance could bring some relief to Collbran, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said.

The industry already is cooperating to scale back track traffic when school buses are on the roads, he said.

Allowing for the development of employee housing closer to rigs, and perhaps limiting the rate of development to coincide with the capabilities of infrastructure, could help, too, Meis said.

“There’s a lot of items being discussed,” he said. “I think that it is going to take a little bit of all of them to resolve this.”

McDaniel said Plains Exploration and Production has been putting water lines near gas lines with the goal of creating a water distribution system for well sites and eliminating the need for hauling water from rig to rig.

The company is working on new methods for disposal of drilling water that include deep injection wells and desalinization, he said.

“I think a substantial part of the traffic from our operations are water trucks,” McDaniel said.


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