Gunnison Energy is proposing doing a three-dimensional seismic survey on some 28,000 acres of federal land to evaluate oil and gas leases it owns north of Paonia.

The work involves sending vibrations underground using vibrator-equipped vehicles or explosives placed in shallow drill holes, and using receiver equipment to captures echoes from underlying geological formations.

Gunnison Energy says its proposed Iron Point project would help it determine the development potential of its leases, identify locations for exploratory drilling, and locate underground features that could impede development. "Without the seismic program, the exploratory program would require more exploratory wells to provide similar information," Gunnison Energy's operation plan for the project says.

The company says it holds 21,060 acres of federal leases in the area, which is in both Delta and Gunnison counties. The land in the proposal includes national forest and Bureau of Land Management lands, and also private lands. Gunnison Energy also holds private lease acreage in the project area.

The U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comments through Oct. 26 on the project, which could begin as soon as this month and is expected to last 40 to 60 days.

The work would begin with a survey of the land for features such as cultural resources and steep slopes, which will help determine the location of seismic survey points. The second phase would involve placing vibration source and receiver lines, drilling of explosive holes, conducting of the seismic survey and cleanup.

More than 400 miles of vibration source and receiver lines would be temporarily deployed on federal land for the project.

While the work would be conducted partly by what are called vibroseis buggies on and off existing roads, in other places explosive holes would be drilled using vehicles or drill equipment that can be delivered by helicopter. Some of the work involves designated roadless areas, where activities would involve helicopter use and crews on foot. All-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles also may be used in some locations under the proposal.

It wouldn't involve building or reconstructing roads or removing vegetation, and activities would avoid streams and big-game winter range.

Comments on the project should be sent to District Ranger Levi Broyles, P.O. Box 1030, Paonia, CO 81428, or submitted online at fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54846, where more information on the project can be found.

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