County mulls industry use of county roads

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Moffat County Road 68 was closed for three months this year because large energy industry vehicles caused extensive damage to the small road.

The road reopened last month after Yates Petroleum hired a private contractor to fix the three-mile byway in Northern Moffat County.

In an effort to limit future road damage, Moffat County officials are reviewing and rewriting the permits that guide energy industry use of county roads.

Road and Bridge Department director Bill Mack said the new permits will clarify what the county expects from the energy industry.

"This is so they know what the standards are, and we know they're out there," Mack said.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said the county needs to clarify the policies for energy industry vehicles using county roads.

"We recognize that energy companies are the major taxpayer in this county," Gray said. "But because of the nature of their work ... sometimes we have some real road damage."

Mack is reviewing the permits for oversized vehicles, snow removal and road grating.

The new grating and snow removal permits will make companies responsible for grating and plowing the roads they use. Energy companies will, however, have to plow and grate up to the county's specifications, Mack said.

Kathy Hall, an energy industry spokeswoman for companies operating on the Western Slope, said it's common for companies to make their own repairs to the roads they damage in Garfield and Mesa County.

"If they've torn it up, they need to fix it," Hall said.

Mack said the county will continue to make repairs to primary roads, but energy companies could make repairs to the smaller secondary roads.

The oversized vehicle permits are currently free, but Mack said there could be a cost attached to them in the future.

Mack said he will consult energy industry officials before he completes the new permits.

He hopes to present the permits to the Moffat County commissioners for approval this fall.

Energy industry spokeswoman Marianna Raftopoulos said it's important for the county and energy companies to discuss road use before any damage occurs.

"They need to have conversation up front and lay the ground rules out," Raftopoulos said.

Raftopoulos is a former Moffat County commissioner and current community relations official for energy companies operating in Northwest Colorado.

Raftopoulos and Hall said it can be difficult to identify who damaged roads, whether it was gas companies or hunters and off-highway vehicles.

But, Mack said, it usually isn't hard to tell when oil industry vehicles are responsible for the damage to county roads.

In the case of C.R. 68, Mack had pictures of energy industry vehicles stuck in the mud.

The only time it's hard to find the culprit for road damage, Mack said, is when companies don't follow the county's rules.

"There are companies out there that aren't getting permits," Mack said.

The Sheriff's Department can ticket companies who don't have permits to use county roads, but Mack said he doesn't know of any company being ticketed in Moffat County.

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