SAN LUIS VALLEY — The water outlook for the San Luis Valley still is not a very good one, according to Water Division III Engineer Craig Cotten.
This is especially trues for Rio Grande County residents in the Del Norte and San Francisco Creek area south of town, where controversy still swells hot and heavy over potential oil and gas drilling.
On Friday, June 9, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) approved the application for a permit to drill in the San Francisco Creek area for the Dan A. Hughes Co.
However, as Dale Wiescamp of Del Norte told the Rio Grande Roundtable a few days later in Alamosa, the Bureau of Land Management, as mineral rights owner, “must do an environmental impact study (EIS). This is holding the dogs off for now.”
If the the EIS is favorable, the only remaining barrier might be approval by Rio Grande County, he added. Otherwise, the study may amount to “ultimate approval.” Noting that drilling is potentially scheduled to begin this fall, Wiescamp pointedly said, “They are ignoring us doing this study on the aquifer,” part of the Rio Grande County hydrogeologic study to be done if approved by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the group’s July meeting.
As of now, that study will not even be finished until late October, if all approval and funding is gained.
The Rio Grande County Commissioners want approval for drilling be a scientifically-based decision, and not just wishful thinking strictly based on private economic desires, or a hasty timetable.
Another development at the Rio Grande Roundtable meeting which applies directly to the Rio Grande between Del Norte and Monte Vista is an appeal by the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust for a new conservation easement involving riverside land at an approximate value of $1,125,000, with a landowner donated conservation easement value of $400,000.
The last figure is “an assessed value” noted Nancy Butler, executive director of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT). She stressed that both the land value and contribution “are estimates… the total land value actually worth more,” a likelihood she stressed.
A request for approval and possibly a $25,000 contribution from the Rio Grande Roundtable account is scheduled to be made at the next Roundtable meeting on Tuesday, July 10.
“Protecting the Heywood Ranch will add to a growing corridor of protected lands along the Rio Grande. In 2007 RiGHT launched the RIO GRANDE INITIATIVE, a focused effort to protect important land and water resources along the Rio Grande. Through this, we have effectively TRIPLED THE PACE OF CONSERVATION along this important river corridor protecting over 16,000 acres in the last five years alone for a total of more than 22,000 acres protected.”
A description of the ranch follows. “Important Wildlife Habitat: The Haywood Ranch has approximately 0.18 miles of Rio Grande river frontage and more than160 acres of wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat for a number of species, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.”
For the estimated $1,125,000 value of the RiGHT request, in addition to $25,000 from the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable account, $400,000 would be obtained “from state-wide funds and the remaining 63 percent, $300,000 in cash and $400,000 from the donated conservation easement value.
Butler admitted this ambitious goal will not be achieved before the beginning steps being taken now and possibly at the July Roundtable meeting. But she had no hesitation to taking action ASAP, and was rewarded with applause by meeting attendees.
For the complete article see the 06-20-2012 issue.
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