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124 wells could be drilled in HD Mountains
4/4/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
By Carole McWilliams
Times senior staff writer
The long-awaited Record of Decision (ROD) for coalbed methane drilling in the HD Mountains was issued Wednesday.
It is the culmination of an Environmental Impact Statement process that started in 2001.
The Draft EIS was issued in July 2004, and the Final EIS was released last August. It covers drilling on public and private land on 125,000 acres north of the Ute Line to the Fruitland formation outcrop, and in the HD Mountains.
The total study area already has around 300 coalbed methane wells and 200 miles of access roads and pipelines. The HDs are mostly undeveloped but have around 20 gas wells and 15 miles of access roads and pipelines generally on the western and eastern edges.
Most of the public interest has been with drilling on federal land in the HDs. About 20,000 acres of that is inventoried roadless area. The record of decision allows new well pads and roads in about one-fourth of that, for leases issued before 2001.
San Juan National Forest Supervisor and Bureau of Land Management Center Manager Mark Stiles presented the decision at a press conference Wednesday in Durango. It is compatible with the 2001 Clinton roadless rule and recommendations of a state roadless task force, he said. Many of the leases in the roadless area were issued in the 1970's.
The Final EIS preferred Alternative 7 would have allowed 127 new wells on federal land in the HDs, including about 25 new well pads and 12 miles of roads and pipelines in the inventoried roadless area.
The record of decision modifies that to allow up to 124 new wells in the HDs, including about 22 well pads and nine miles of roads and pipelines in the roadless area, about 49 acres of long-term disturbance there.
The decrease mainly reflects “no surface occupancy” stipulations maintained on two leases issued in 2001.
The HDs have many steep slopes areas with erosion or slide hazards, and old growth Ponderosa areas. The record of decision protects much of the Ignacio Canyon old growth area and the area south of the rock bridge, Stiles said.
The record of decision balances environmental protection and public safety with existing mineral lease rights, Stiles said.
The public has 45 days to appeal the ROD, and the Forest Service has 60 days to respond.
Copies of the record of decision can be viewed at the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango, the Columbine field office in Bayfield, the Pagosa Ranger District office, and local libraries; or on-line at http://www. nsjb-eis.net; or http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan/projects/projects.shtml.
For print or CD copies call Walt Brown at 385-1372.
For complete coverage, see Friday's issue of the Pine River Times.
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