Garfield commission firmly against use of road for drilling

Garfield County commissioners reiterated their opposition Monday to a county road southwest of Glenwood Springs being used for oil and gas traffic.

Part of their dilemma in addressing the issue, however, is that there are limits to the controls the county itself can place on Four-Mile Road. Trying to prevent one form of traffic could unintentionally affect others, county officials say.

Commissioner Mike Samson brought up the issue of the use of the road, which travels past rural subdivisions to Sunlight Mountain Resort and national forest land. He said there is speculation among some local residents that improvements the county is making to the road are being undertaken to pave the way for oil and gas traffic.

The road accesses part of what’s called the Thompson Divide area, which stretches south to McClure Pass. Some local governments, conservationists, ranchers and others are trying to protect the area from oil and gas development.

Parts of the area are already leased, and one leaseholder, SG Interests, has voiced interest in reaching leases southwest of Glenwood Springs by way of Four-Mile Road.

Samson said county officials have repeatedly said they support Glenwood Springs in its opposition to gas traffic heading down Four-Mile Road and through the city.

“I don’t know how else to say that, but I’ll say it one more time,” he said. “Hopefully people are understanding that.”

He said there is no such thing as county haul-route designations. The county can limit truck weight and size on roads, and already does so on Four-Mile, he said. It also can control the number of trips per day and the time of day those trips can occur.

But too many restrictions could result in everything from garbage to business service trucks also being kept off a road, Samson said.

Samson said much of the Thompson Divide area is in Pitkin, Mesa, Delta and Gunnison counties, and he says there are alternate routes to the area that can be reached through counties with much more stake in drilling in the area.

SG Interests’ leases are on national forest land, and it could work with the Forest Service to reach them from south of Silt. But the company has questioned the practicality of that longer route.

Jim Hawkins, who with his wife Sharill owns a bed-and-breakfast on Four-Mile Road, said he’s glad about the stance the county is taking, but worries how much legal authority it has to stop the drilling traffic. He said Glenwood Springs has more chance of imposing limits strict enough to keep the trucks off its streets, and thus off Four-Mile.

Meanwhile, he says there’s a lot of skepticism among Four-Mile Road residents about why the county is spending millions of dollars on upgrades there, which include plans to dynamite a cliff to eliminate a sharp curve.

“Everybody says, ‘OK, what is the real agenda?’” Hawkins said.

County officials said the improvements relate to safety, but local residents say the sharp curve improves safety by forcing motorists to slow down.


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