County approves gas well doubling

Another energy producer has received La Plata County’s stamp of approval to double its number of local gas wells. On Monday, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend Samson Resources the same courtesy it gave BP a month ago—a memorandum endorsing the company’s push for 80-acre well spacing. Two other oil and gas companies are already in the planning pipeline to obtain the same privilege.

Commissioner Wally White noted that the board has been accused of caving to the industry. He answered that allegation by listing the exactions the county received in exchange for the memorandum. Like BP, Samson will be required to limit well pad sizes, drill from existing pads where possible, address air and water quality issues and deal with plugged and abandoned wells. Because Samson lacks BP’s pipeline infrastructure for transporting wastewater, the company will also pay additional fees for impacts to roads. In exchange, Samson received the county’s blessing to increase the number of its local gas wells from one per 160 acres to one per 80 acres.

“A lot of people feel like we rolled over to the industry, but I don’t think that’s the case at all,” White said. “I think we got a very good deal.” White predicted that hindsight will prove that the MOU actually provided benefits to the citizens of La Plata County that would not have been realized.

“I think we’re on the right track,” he said. “We haven’t given up anything substantial. In fact, we’ve gained a few things. Hopefully, people will see some of these benefits in the future.”

White noted that two yet-to-be named oil and gas companies are on similar track as Samson and BP. He said commissioners hope to strike similar deals with the two others as well.

“I assume we are going to do something with the other companies that are coming in,” he said. “There are two others in the pipeline at this point.”

Samson’s hearing before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to allow the 80-acre spacing is scheduled for Nov. 1.


None injured in school bus crash

Thirty-eight Escalante Middle School students were bruised and shaken but safe after two Durango School District 9-R buses collided last Thursday. The accident took place early that morning at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 160 and Three Springs Boulevard and is the first of its kind since 1984.

According to 9-R Director of Transportation Sharon Duncan, the first bus, driven by substitute driver David Atnip, had stopped for a red light at the intersection. At that time, a second bus, driven by Mea Summerhays, collided with the first. Atnip’s bus had 37 students on board and was en route from Florida Mesa Elementary to Escalante. Summerhays’ bus was empty after reported mechanical difficulties and was on its way back from Florida Mesa Elementary to the bus barn.

When students arrived at Escalante shortly after 8 a.m., they reported the accident, and school officials immediately took them to the Escalante nurse’s office for examination. School officials called Durango Fire and Rescue Authority, and paramedics arrived at the scene at about 8:25 a.m.

Three ambulances and 19 emergency response personnel were immediately dispatched. Students’ primary complaints included head and neck pain and some bruising, and all students were transported to Mercy Medical Center either by ambulance or school bus for additional evaluations by doctors.  

The Colorado State Patrol is investigating the accident and will release a report. Both drivers have been suspended from driving pending investigation of the accident.

In a letter to parents of Escalante students, Principal Amy Kendziorski wrote, “I want to assure you that all of us in Durango School District 9-R place student safety as our No. 1 priority. We are truly grateful that this morning’s accident was minor.”


DMR sells entire phase in a morning

Real estate is only getting hotter at Durango Mountain Resort. The ski area hosted the most successful single-day sales event in its history last week, with the entire first phase of the Alpenglow Townhomes selling out in just 3½ hours. The 16 units represented $14 million dollars in real estate sales.

“We could not have anticipated a better response,” said Cathy Craig, broker/owner of Durango Mountain Realty of the invitation-only event. Forty-three reservation holders were invited in priority order and were allowed 15 minutes to make their final selections. The townhomes were purchased by homeowners from various states across the country including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and Florida.

The Alpenglow Townhomes are three- to four-bedroom, slopeside units in the Columbine Beginner Area. Scheduled for completion in the fall of next year, the townhomes are a part of the resort’s 25-year master plan which will include five new villages in addition to Purgatory Village; a new day lodge in the base area; and new lodging, retail and restaurant amenities for the resort.

“This kind of sales response affirms that the resort community we are building here has the perfect mix of amenities, lifestyle and residential product in a vacation home destination,” said resort CEO Gary Derck. “DMR’s investment value in relation to other mountain resorts in the West continues to draw buyers from throughout the country.”


Colorado Wild taps a new director

Colorado Wild, the Durango-based conservation group, has new leadership. Ryan Demmy Bidwell has taken over executive director duties for the group, which has made headlines on everything from the Village at Wolf Creek to defeating the Missionary Ridge Timber Sale. Bidwell replaces outgoing director Jeff Berman.

Bidwell received a masters degree in natural resource policy from the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington and was involved for several years in endangered species planning and conservation efforts for the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. Prior to that, he was the Mountain Forum’s program coordinator in West Virginia.  

“We are finding Ryan eminently qualified to fill our founding executive director’s shoes and, more importantly, to strategically and efficiently steer Colorado Wild’s efforts into the future,” wrote Jeff Parsons, board president.

Bidwell will be based in Colorado Wild’s Durango office, where he will concentrate his energies on the sustainable management and conservation of Colorado’s Western Slope national forests. Berman will continue his efforts with Colorado Wild as the campaign coordinator in the ongoing battle to stop the proposed Village at Wolf Creek.


Forest Service surveys recreation

San Juan National Forest is trying to get a clear picture of recreation within its boundaries. The Forest Service is currently tapping residents and tourists for a recreation survey. San Juan National Forest employees in orange vests are staffing survey sites, marked by “Traffic Survey Ahead” signs, at recreation areas and along roads on public lands in Southwestern Colorado. Surveys are also being conducted at ski areas, interpretive sites, and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train Depot. 

The effort is part of a national survey, which is conducted every five years to collect information on how many people recreate on federal lands, what activities they engage in, how satisfied they were with their visit, and what services they took advantage of in adjacent communities. 

Sample questions include: where did you recreate on public lands, how many people are you traveling with, how long you were on public lands, what recreation sites did you visit, how satisfied are you with the facilities and services provided. The survey process will continue through next fall.

– compiled by Will Sands


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