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County faces two road closures

Elkhead repair ongoing, energy company faces issues with state regulations

Collin Smith

The Moffat County Commission deliberated on two road issues Tuesday, one a possible closure near Hamilton and the other concerning the road to Elkhead Reservoir.

The portion of the road to Elkhead now temporarily closed is in Routt County, but Tammie Crawford, field coordinator for Routt County road and bridge, said she wanted to speak with the commission about how her department’s project might affect Moffat County residents.

More than 50 feet of Routt County Road 86, which starts where Moffat County Road 29 ends at the county line, fell off the eastern embankment earlier this year.

Routt County received a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to pay for repairs, and hired Grand Junction-based GeoStabilization for the work.

Because of the nature of the slide and the work that’s necessary to fix the damages, the road will be closed throughout each weekday for the next few weeks, Crawford said.

One lane will be open without interruption from 7 to 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as nights and weekends.

During other hours, commuters may have to wait up to an hour or more before being able to cross, Crawford added.

After initial work is completed during the next few weeks, she said at least one lane should be open to traffic at all times.

Anyone wishing to go to Elkhead can take a different route bypassing the repair work by traveling north of town on Colorado Highway 13 and turning left at Moffat County Road 18 to get to Routt County Road 86 and the reservoir.

The other possible closure concerns a road near Hamilton and a proposed drilling site for East Resources.

The company plans to drill a natural gas well off Moffat County Road 93, north of Hamilton, in the Castor Gulch area.

However, new Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulations – made effective April 1 after a controversial and partisan fight in the Legislature – require drilling rigs to be a distance of 150 feet or 1 1/2 times the rig’s height away from a public road, or the road must be closed.

Since the drilling site is in a small canyon, that is impossible, Commissioner Tom Mathers said, which illustrates some of his frustrations with the state’s new regulations.

“These new rules just make it tough to get things done,” he said. “Hopefully, the Oil and Gas Commission will see what we have here and do something about it.”

Gordon Palmer, of East Resources, said his company did not intend to complicate anything for the county. In fact, it initially contracted to use a smaller rig to fit into the state’s parameters, but that company laid off all its workers before the project started.

After that, East Resources was stuck with a taller rig, Palmer said.

He added he needed a decision from the county about how to proceed before his company submits a drilling application to the state.

The commission approved, 3-0, temporarily closing the road from Sept. 12 to Oct. 1 to all but authorized users, such as residents who live along County Road 93.

Commissioner Tom Gray said the county’s hope is that all hunters who have a license to hunt in the area qualify as authorized users and will be unaffected by the rig’s presence.


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