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Oil And Gas Exploration A Concern To Some In South Park Area

Although South Park has long been prized as the home of the South Platte River and for its native elk herds, its energy prospects put it on the radar of the Bureau of Land Management. The federal agency has begun putting together a master leasing plan for South Park to evaluate the risks of drilling for oil and natural gas in what many consider one of the state's unparalleled playgrounds.

But for those who make their living off the wildlife and water in South Park, the area's potential for energy development poses a serious economic threat, said David Leinweber, who owns the Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs.

Leinweber foresees disaster if oil and gas development were to harm the river and its tributaries.

"In South Park, our big concern is not very much different from what just happened on the Animas (River)," said Leinweber, referring to the acid-mine drainage that polluted the river in August.

South Park's uniqueness comes in part from its geology — a mixture of ancient volcanoes, glaciers and lakes, which make the area precious to the Front Range for its connection to water. Denver, Aurora and Centennial get water from South Park's rivers, streams and reservoirs.

With 28 abandoned wells and no active permits for the area, South Park has seen minimal drilling, said BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo.

In years past, environmental reviews were done once energy companies expressed interest in drilling on BLM lands. But in 2010, BLM reformed the process by creating master leasing plans to be put together before areas are made available for lease, Lacayo said.

Instead, the BLM triggered the process without active interest in energy development in South Park.

Park County residents are afraid that oil and gas wells will pollute their vulnerable aquifers. Water providers, such as Denver Water and Colorado Springs Utilities, lobbied for mandatory setbacks for oil and gas development from water sources.

The BLM will take all the input into consideration.

The Denver Post
The Denver Post
Published on:
October 5, 2015
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