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Fremont Road Project Featured in Colorado Oil & Gas Newsletter

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(The following article appeared in the Spring 2014 Newsletter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission):

Coal Creek: A Tale of One County, Four Towns, and Two Operators

Oil was first reported in Colorado Territory near Florence in 1862. Commercial production began in 1881. Florence Field lost first place in total production early in the 1900s, but oil continues to flow from the Pierre Shale, and new operators continue to use new technologies to find and develop resources in Fremont County.

Between 1882 and 1888 the towns of Coal Creek, Williamsburg, and Rockvale grew to support the new coal mines of the narrow valleys of Chandler, Oak and Coal Creeks south of Florence. Coal mining declined significantly in the mid-1900s, but these small incorporated towns remain, dependent on Florence and other nearby towns for groceries, gasoline and schools.

Fast forward to August 21, 2012, just after Marc Morton and Nancy Prince started as LGLs (Local Government Liaisons). Coal Creek Mayor (and LGD-Local Government Designee) Connie Higgs had submitted a complaint to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that oil and gas water trucks working on a new well were damaging local roads. At the suggestion of COGCC Field Inspection Supervisor Mike Leonard, representatives of the operator, Coal Creek, and Fremont County met with the LGLs to discuss strategies for limiting additional damage, temporary maintenance and long-term repair.

The operator, who was new to Colorado, agreed to look into other water sources and haul routes, and required their contractors to observe local road and traffic regulations. Fremont County provided equipment and labor, and the town governments funded purchase of materials for pothole repair deemed essential before winter.

Nancy Prince continued to coordinate with the operators and the local governments. Williamsburg Mayor Gary Zak, Rockvale Mayor Delbert Lennie, Florence City Manager Mike Patterson, and Fremont County Department of Transportation Director Tony Adamic, joined Mayor Higgs in exploring options with Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to fund long-term solutions.

Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Mineral Impact grants are derived from severance taxes and federal mineral lease funds. Grants are distributed based on need and on the availability of matching funding. Mayor Higgs and Mr. Adamic wrote the grant application proposal.  Austin Exploration and Javernick Oil provided engineering design support and labor.

The proposal included 7.4 miles of roads and drainage improvements, designed to meet truck-traffic standards. DOLA awarded a grant of $550,000 in January. Officials broke ground March 17 at the intersection of CR 100 and Cap Rock Road to begin the five-year Regional Road Project to repair those roads adversely affected by the work being done by oil companies.

Hats off to Mayor Higgs and Tony Adamic for writing the successful proposal.  Kudos also to the other LGDs and the local operators for this successful cooperative project in an area rich in Colorado oil and gas history.