Damaged county roads could get 'shot in the arm'


County roads damaged by increased energy industry use could see major improvements in the coming months.

The Department of Local Affairs is offering $1.5 million grants to counties heavily affected by oil and gas extraction.

Moffat County is one of 13 counties in the state eligible for the grants.

DOLA usually gives energy impact grants in three grant cycles -- April, August and December.

Grant requests are due by Sept. 15.

Moffat County budget analyst Tinneal Gerber said regular energy impact grants sometimes come after energy industry vehicles have damaged roads but before counties get revenue from energy extraction, leaving roads in rough shape.

"Counties have road impacts right now," Gerber said.

The $1.5 million grant would be limited to road projects and to heavy equipment for road and bridge departments.

Commissioners will meet with the Road and Bridge Department in the coming weeks to discuss specific projects.

Gerber said one of the projects could be repairing asphalt on County Road 4.

Road and Bridge Department director Bill Mack said traffic from large trucks has damaged the asphalt on C.R. 4.

"Asphalt is something that's a lot more expensive to maintain," Mack said. "We haven't been able to maintain it up to the level that we would like to."

Mack also expects C.R. 7 to need work when pipeline crews start using it to transport pipes this fall.

Mack said the additional grant will provide "a shot in the arm" for road projects.

At Tuesday's commissioner meeting, commissioners briefly discussed the DOLA grant.

Commissioners said they would use the grant for road projects, not for heavy equipment.

"We would be foolish to try to change this money into equipment," Commissioner Darryl Steele said, noting that road repairs are a more pressing concern.

Tim Sarmo, DOLA regional manager for Northwest Colorado, said the department saw a need for an out-of-cycle grant after meeting with affected counties recently.

"We heard that road impacts are significant in the areas experiencing this huge influx," Sarmo said. "We recognize the urgency of the need."

When grants come after roads have been damaged, Sarmo said it hurts all road users.

"It's bad for the industry, bad for the counties and bad for the public," Sarmo said.

Since 1995, DOLA has given Moffat County entities more than $10 million in energy impact grants.

Sarmo said the 13 eligible counties -- which include Rio Blanco and Garfield -- were chosen based on the number of oil and gas permits requested and the amount of energy being produced.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com

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