State Land Board to pull South Park Basin drilling leases |

State Land Board to pull South Park Basin drilling leases

Three oil and gas lease tracts on the South Park Basin were pulled from last week’s Colorado State Land Board lease sale in a move advocates hailed as a victory for drinking water and wildlife.

Melissa Yoder of the Colorado State Land Board said two of the parcels were adjacent to Antero Reservoir and were removed at the request of Denver Water. The third tract was near a Gold Medal fishery on the Middle Fork of the South Platte, and Colorado Division of Wildlife officials advised it be removed.

“The South Park Basin is incredibly important for our drinking water and rich in wildlife resources,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate for Environment Colorado, in a press release. “The Colorado State Land Board made a wise decision today recognizing that some areas are too sensitive to be drilled where the full impacts are not yet fully known.”

The Land Board commissioners “asked its staff to go back through the oil and gas auction list to ensure the Division of Wildlife didn’t have any additional stipulations to put on tracts as it related to specific wildlife habitat impacts,” Yoder said.

She added that if there are concerns, leases receive stipulations to accommodate the habitat issues identified. In that area, mule deer and pronghorn could be affected by drilling operations.

“The State Land Board will auction lands with high wildlife values, such as severe winter range for mule deer and pronghorn and greater sage grouse habitat,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, in the press release. “It is absolutely critical that the State Land Board confer with the Division of Wildlife about how to best avoid, or at least mitigate, impacts to wildlife habitat.”

The South Park Basin provides drinking water for 1.5 million residents in the Denver Metro Area, drawing water from reservoirs such as Antero Reservoir, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, and the watershed for the South Platte River.

There are active leases currently in the basin, Yoder said, though she was unsure of their production output and the revenue involved – or how removing the three tracts from the lease sale would impact the economics of drilling in the area.

The Wildlife Commission and the Land Board agreed in their recent meeting that they need to have more formalized communication processes to address land use issues and ensure feedback is given and received, Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.

South Park area landowner Eddie Kochman, who’s also a former state aquatic wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife agreed, according to the press release.

“One thing is for sure, there has to be more coordination between local government, state agencies, water providers, and landowners before additional development occurs,” he said.

According to Environment Colorado, the regional stakeholder group Coalition of the Upper South Platte is looking for ways to monitor the impacts of current exploratory drilling in the South Park Basin. A full-scale computer modeling study should help understand potential impacts to groundwater, rivers and streams and the watershed. The group hopes the Land Board commissioners and other agencies will support full implementation of the study before large-scale development occurs in the South Park Basin.

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