Colorado PWC Approves Energy Projects, Big-game Seasons

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The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission authorized Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables to negotiate a surface use agreement and lease with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation that would allow energy development from one well pad at St. Vrain State Park outside of Longmont.

Commissioners gave Cables the go-ahead to finalize the agreements following an extensive review by staff of the potential impact of the proposed development. Anadarko is proposing to drill seven horizontal wells from one 10-acre pad located at the northern edge of the 688-acre park.  

Chairman Tim Glenn said that when Commissioners first heard about the proposal last fall, they wanted to be sure that drilling wouldn't have a significant impact on recreation or the area's natural resources.  

"As the process has gone on, I believe staff has addressed all of the concerns that have been expressed and they've developed a good plan to manage those issues," he said. "We're looking at this as single case that is being evaluated under its own merits."

Colorado Parks and Wildlife owns mineral rights on 439 of the park's 688 acres.  As the mineral rights owner, Colorado Parks and Wildlife can negotiate directly with a prospective operator to secure the highest level of protections for park users, wildlife, water quality and other natural resources.  

High Plains Region Manager Heather Dugan told commissioners that while three firms had expressed interest in the project, only one had a demonstrated track record of  developing the oil-bearing Niobrara formation with horizontal wells. Because Anadarko owns existing wells surrounding the park, the company would only need one new well pad on the northern portion of the park property to develop the resources under the park. This would greatly reduce impacts to visitors and nesting herons and roosting eagles along the St. Vrain River.  Anadarko also offered to pay a higher royalty rate. 

In addition, she said Anadarko had agreed to adopt the strict environmental protections requested by staff, such as conducting baseline water quality surveys, using closed-loop drilling systems to minimize the risk of spills and taking steps to protect the aquifer below the park.

Also during the morning session, Commissioners approved a surface use agreement with DeJour Energy for energy development on the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area. The 13,172-acre state wildlife area is critical winter range purchased to help reduce agricultural conflicts with local producers.

Unlike at St. Vrain State Park, Colorado Parks and Wildlife does not own the mineral rights under Garfield Creek SWA, which were leased to DeJour by the Bureau of Land Management. The Surface Use Agreement allows DeJour to develop three well pads on the state wildlife area with a total disturbance of 11.5 acres.

Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde said compensation for pad sites, wells and pipeline easements will be $207,660, plus $40,000 for projects such as irrigation systems or wildlife food plots to improve wildlife habitat on the state wildlife area.

Commissioners also set 2012 big game hunting season dates at the meeting and approved more than two dozen changes to big game regulations.

In other business, Glenn asked staff to further evaluate a citizen petition from the Rifle Climber's Coalition and the Access Fund to allow rock climbing on the cliffs on the Rifle Falls State Fish Unit. Commissioners denied a citizen petition to ban the use of lead shot at Horsethief State Wildlife Area west of Grand Junction.

Prior to lunch, Martin Yunker of Colorado Springs was given special recognition for becoming the first hunter education instructor to successfully graduate 15,000 students from the state‚Äôs hunter education program.  Yunker has taught more than 450 classes since 1991 and graduated more than 16,000 students.  Mark Cousins, CPW's hunter ed coordinator, said Yunker also teaches range safety and fire line procedures for the program's New Instructor Academy. "Marty really exemplifies the dedication of our volunteer hunter ed instructors across the state," Cousins said.

The meeting was held at the Hunter Education Building on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife campus at 6060 Broadway in Denver.

On Friday morning, Commissioners will convene a workshop to discuss several topics related to the merger of the former Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife, including the presentation of a merger implementation plan developed by a Transition Team of parks and wildlife employees.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a 14-member board appointed by the governor. The Parks and Wildlife Commission sets regulations and policies for Colorado's state parks wildlife programs.

The complete agenda for the January Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Commission web page at:
http://wildlife.state.co.us/ParksWildlifeCommission/Archives/2012/Pages/January12-13_2012.aspx.

The Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The first three meetings of the year will take place in the Hunter Education Building in Denver. For the remainder of 2012, the commission will hold meetings in Pueblo, Grand Junction, Craig, Sterling, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs, Durango, Yuma and Colorado Springs.