Eleven county, state and federal officials cited concerns during an intergovernmental meeting Tuesday about Northwest Colorado’s unseasonably dry spring.
“With winter being an almost non-event, we’re chasing our tails a little bit trying to get things open,” said Ron Dellacroce, Yampa River State Park and Elkhead Reservoir manager. “Usually things are still wet right now and we need to hold people off, but everything in the river is open. Cross Mountain is getting a lot of use and we’re going to get Elkhead open about a month early as well.”
The Moffat County Commission hosted Tuesday’s meeting.
During the last intergovernmental meeting the commission hosted, Dellacroce was worried about his department’s budget.
But with some cuts and unexpected revenue generated by in-state vacationers, Dellacroce said he and his staff were able to balance the fiscal budget.
“People are really taking advantage of the state park system with that ‘staycation’ mentality we have seen for years,” Dellacroce said. “We had one of the best hunter visitation seasons in five years and the revenue we’ve been able to generate has allowed us to stay pretty solid.”
With state park facilities opening earlier this year than in years past, Dellacroce said people are taking advantage of the warm weather to play outside, but that could change.
“We foresee this being a short season,” he said. “I hope I’m wrong but if it dries up on everybody, it could change the game. It’s going to be a unique year for us.”
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz also cited concerns with the weather, but for different reasons.
He said Craig Fire/Rescue, the Bureau of Land Management and the Artesia Fire District have responded to eight out-of-control prescribed burns in the last two weeks.
“What we’ve had is people lighting off fires in 40 mile per hour winds and not checking with weather behaviors,” Jantz said. “Fortunately and unfortunately the fires in (Jefferson County) and in Denver have got people talking, which benefits us in Northwest Colorado.”
With BLM and Colorado State Land Board representatives in attendance Tuesday, conversation shifted to oil and natural gas activity.
Some officials reported witnessing a slowdown in development while others said they were beginning to see a shift from drilling for natural gas to drilling for oil.
“Our permits to drill are down,” said Tim Wilson, assistant field manager for the BLM’s Little Snake Field Office. “We think it has a lot to do with the price of natural gas dropping.”
Commissioner Tom Gray said he has heard reports the price of natural gas is expected to drop to about $1 per unit before the end of the year.
“If there’s a slowdown, we’re not seeing it,” said Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “What we are seeing though is a transition from drilling for (natural) gas to oil.”
County officials said activity is expected to pick up in and around Craig in 2012.
Jeff Comstock, Moffat County natural resources director, said operators have submitted plans to drill as many as 30 new wells in Moffat County this year, up from 14 in 2011.
“But everyone is talking about regulations,” Comstock said. “They’re wowed by the differences between Routt County and Moffat County.”
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