Half of Mesa County's portion of the royalty payments it received for the defunct Anvil Points Naval Oil Shale Testing Facility will be invested.
David Ludlam, president of the Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District, announced Monday that the group's board of directors decided some of that money — $851,936 — would best serve the region by placing it into its permanent fund, an account that allows the district to earn interest to pay for future projects to mitigate mineral development.
"The Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District's investment in the Forever Fund demonstrates the difficult political will to invest for the future and build a community endowment for the benefit of Mesa County's citizens for generations to come," Ludlam said.
During last year's session of the Colorado Legislature, lawmakers approved a bill to allow FML districts to invest federal royalty money, but any interest earned from those investments must be used for the same purpose as the original seed money. Mesa County is the first in the state to use that new law.
The three-member board, which also includes Mesa County Commissioner John Justman and county resident Craig Springer, kicked an additional $85,791 in unencumbered grant money into the permanent fund, bringing its total to about $1.3 million.
The Clifton Sanitation District, Grand Junction City Council, Fruita City Council and Colorado Mesa University all sent letters to the district encouraging it to invest some of the money.
"As a local public utility with a major commitment and mandated responsibility for maintaining environmental and public health we are particularly impacted by energy-related growth," wrote David Stassen, chairman of the Clifton district. "(The district) strongly supports the overall goals of the ... permanent fund and the focus of the long-term benefits this program will provide to the local community."
The remaining $851,936 from the Anvil Points money will be used to fund additional grants when needed, the board said.
In March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released about $17.5 million in withheld royalty payments from the testing facility, disbursing the money to four area counties.
Under a bill approved by the Legislature in March, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties received 40 percent each, while Mesa and Moffat counties were given 10 percent each.
Anvil Points, located on the Roan Plateau not far from Rifle, was the site of a research project decades ago to test ways to turn oil shale into a mineable energy resource. It later was shut down, but it took years of remediation to clean up a large pile of burned oil shale, work that was completed in 2013.
That cleanup effort, however, resulted in a freezing of royalty payments to the four counties from the site to help pay remediation costs. It was given to the four counties only because the royalties were earned before the state changed how it disburses FML royalty money.
The FML district's next grant cycle will be opened on Aug. 1.