A sizable crew of county, state and private officials made a trip to some proposed gas well sites near Jump Creek last week to examine any problems the wells might cause to the watershed in the area.
The trip was brought on by a public hearing that was held at a Carbon County Commission meeting on August 18, when a local land owner, Craig Stay, told the commission that he worried the area might become over developed and that one of the proposed wells that Prima Oil and Gas wanted to drill might affect the stream nearby.
At a preliminary hearing for approval by the Carbon Planning and Zoning Commission in July, it appeared the well in question was well away from the stream, but Stay told those at the commission meeting that he thought it was closer than indicated by the company. At that time the commission tabled the issue of a conditional use permit until the situation could be cleared up.
"What we found is that the closest a well is to a stream is about 1300 feet," said Rex Sacco, lands and access coordinator of the county, on Friday. "There is no problem with any well site whether it flows into the Price River or into Scofield Reservoir."
The group that visited the sites consisted of Sacco and Gayla Williams from the county, Lisa Morris, a geologist for Prima, Mark Jones from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Larry Johnson from Talon Resources, Robin Smith and a few other experts in various fields.
The feeling at the commission meeting was that a hydrology study on the entire watershed might be done if it can be arranged through the state, although Jones, who was also at the meeting stated he thought that such a study was unneeded.
According to Sacco, DOGM examines the geology of the area, not the hydrology. That agency adds restrictions and precautions if they feel there will be any problems with water contamination or erosion in an area.
They also examined a reclamation on a well that Stay felt was not done properly, near his cabin. Sacco said that the site had been reclaimed and in fact it was done with an added feature.
"When they made a cut into the hill to reclaim the area it opened up a spring which has been great for watering cattle," he said. "It is dried up this year, but when we start to get water in the mountains again I think it will come back. That reclamation was done properly."
Stay was also concerned about how wells might affect the beauty of the area. The closest proposed well to his cabin is about 2400 feet away and at an altitude of 160 feet higher than his property.
Stay's cabin site itself required a variance from the board of adjustments when the dwelling was constructed in 1994, because it was only 30 feet away from Jump Creek.
Dave Levanger, Carbon County's director of planning and zoning said at the commission meeting that he felt the cabins in Beaver Creek and other areas offered much more of a threat to the watershed than any of the wells do.
"There is a wet seep in that area too," said Sacco. "My brothers and I run cows in that area and if we thought that the wells would pollute the water, we would be the first to complain about the situation."
Now that the discovery trip has been completed, the results of the investigation will be turned over to the county commissioners and they will probably make a decision on the conditional use permits at their next meeting on Sept. 1.