County commissioners discuss road use

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Large energy industry vehicles and an early thaw last winter proved to be a muddy recipe for county roads.

Gravel sank through the soft mud on some of the county's smaller roads, leaving them impassable.

Moffat County Road 68 North was particularly bad and had to be closed for three months.

"There was a pretty steep learning curve last year on everybody's part," Moffat County Road and Bridge Director Bill Mack said.

Mack met with Moffat County commissioners and representatives from Yates Petroleum on Thursday to discuss energy industry use of county roads.

Since last spring, Mack has been looking for ways to take care of county roads in the face of continued energy development.

Mack said Thursday that he hopes to present new rules for energy industry use of county roads to the commissioners before the first of the year.

The rules could include allowing oil and gas companies to maintain roads themselves and new permits for oversized loads and moving rigs.

Commissioners said they want to meet with energy officials before roads are damaged rather than waiting for roads to be damaged.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said county officials met the companies building pipelines through the county a few months ago. As a result, Steele said the county and pipeline companies shared the cost to improve roads before they were damaged.

"That is the kind of thing I would like to see us at least explore," Steele said. "We don't want problems after the fact."

David Lanning, Yates assistant vice president for exploration and production, said he too would like to work with the county before roads are damaged. But he said in most counties where Yates operates, the counties maintain roads; the company doesn't.

Lanning said that could be because energy development is more established in southeast New Mexico and Wyoming, where the majority of Yates' business is.

Yates' operations in Moffat County are still "very exploratory," Lanning said, with fewer than 10 wells drilled.

"But if it pans out, we will be very active up here," he said.

Mack said some of the roads Yates uses now will need to be improved before the company expands operations.

Moffat County Road 101 near Baker's Peak is one that could be damaged if more gravel isn't put on.

"It looks pretty good now," Mack said. "But quite honestly, we need to go in and put some more surface on."

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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