Officials with Shell Oil Company visited the Yampa Valley on Thursday to discuss road projects with Hamilton residents.
More than 70 locals attended the meeting at the Hamilton Community Center.
“I’ve been to every community meeting we’ve had and this one was by far the best,” said Tommie Criddle, of Shell’s logistics group.
“They asked a lot of good questions and seem to be on board with what we are trying to do here.”
Criddle is tasked with ensuring proper road maintenance in Shell’s play for Niobrara shale oil.
“There’s been a lot of false rumors floating around that Shell was planning to completely close roads during our operations,” Criddle said.
“We decided it would be a good idea to hold a meeting and explain that our intention is to actually improve the road system.”
He cited three projects slated to begin this summer during his presentation, including upgrades and/or road repairs to Moffat County Roads 33 and 37.
The big project, however, revolves around Colorado Highway 317.
Colorado Highway 317 is a two-track road, Criddle said, that runs 12 miles southeast from Hamilton to Pagoda, and was never designed to handle the weight associated with transporting drilling rigs.
The Colorado Department of Transportation sidelined an oil rig at Frontier Yard in Craig in 2011 because of road damage caused by Shell moving equipment to and from its Harper Hill pads.
Shell has since pledged to upgrade and repair the highway, if Moffat County would maintain the highway into the future.
An agreement has been reached between Shell, Moffat County and CDOT, Criddle said, but because approximately 1.8 miles of Colorado Highway 317 dips into Routt County, the Routt County Commissioners need to be on board with the plan as well.
Commissioners from Moffat and Routt counties met two weeks ago at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden to discuss an arrangement that could include swapping maintenance responsibilities for 317 with another cross county road elsewhere.
In the meantime, Criddle said his department was allocated funds to begin survey work and road repairs on the first six miles of 317.
Criddle hired a local engineering company to conduct the survey, which is scheduled to be completed May 15.
He expects road work will either entail an overlay or a complete rebuild.
Shell has also asked the engineering firm to examine a slide around mile marker 1, four “soft spots” approximately 100 feet in length and several undersized culverts that could improve drainage if replaced.
Once the survey work is complete, Criddle said local companies will be hired to conduct the road projects scheduled for this year.
Craig and Hamilton residents can expect to see Shell’s drilling rigs returning to the area beginning this week, Criddle said.
One rig is coming in from Pennsylvania and the other from Casper, Wyo.
When the Pennsylvania rig arrives, it will be offloaded at Frontier Yard in Craig, Criddle said.
“I just want to squash the rumors before they begin,” Criddle said.
“It is not going to be in Craig long and it has nothing to do with CDOT. We are going to unload it in Craig and then reload it with a local hauler.”
In other news related to the company, Criddle and Scott Scheffler, Shell communications advisor, responded to an April 19 letter from some of Craig’s hoteliers urging the company to consider utilizing local hotel rooms rather than constructing temporary living quarters for its workers.
“The idea of constructing temporary living quarters is just a backup idea,” Scheffler said.
“We have to get permits to do those, which we did, just in case local hoteliers had a problem with us blocking the tourist traffic. It’s just a backup plan. That’s all there is to it.”
Scheffler said he and other Shell representatives will meet with the Moffat County Tourism Association to address the letter directly.
In addition, Shell plans to host two more open houses in May.
The first is scheduled for May 23 in Steamboat Springs, and the second is scheduled for May 24 in Craig.
Venues for both open houses are still to be determined.
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