Staff Report

This photo from the Delta County Tourism Cabinet’s
Facebook page depicts agriculture in the North Fork
Valley near Crawford, a thriving industry that could be
impacted by fracking, concerned citizens say.

DELTA—(January 1) It’s an issue that could affect the quality of YOUR life. When the Montrose-Delta League of Women Voters hosts a forum on the controversial energy extraction technique of hydrofracturing, or “fracking,” on Jan. 12, the idea is make sure you and your West Slope neighbors are armed with all of the facts.

“This is important, because fracking has the potential to impact the quality of life of everybody,” League President Karen Connor said. “Even if you are not living in the immediate area, there is the possibility of contamination of ground, aquifer and surface water. It could affect trout fishing, and it could poison the animals drinking the water and the animals we eat.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced in November that it intends to lease 20,555 acres in the North Fork Valley at a February Oil and Gas lease sale in Denver, just as communities across the state are enacting regulations and other measures to deal with the possible impacts of fracking, a technique that can potentially devastate the local environment and contaminate groundwater supplies.

Citizen action groups in the North Fork Valley have developed an alternative resource management plan, Connor noted, because the plan used by the BLM in designating areas for the February 2013 lease sale was 23 years old and does not reflect the North Fork Community as it is today.

Fracking in our Backyard—Oil and Gas Drilling Affects us All—will be held at Bill Heddles Rec Center (Conference Room B, 530 Gunnison River Drive)  in Delta from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 12. The forum will feature diverse speakers and stakeholders in an effort to raise awareness of this important issue, and there will be a question and answer session to follow. A non-partisan political group, The League of Women Voters of Colorado is currently undertaking a statewide study to investigate the impact of the practice of hydrofracturing for natural gas, oil, and methane on Colorado and its citizens, and to discern what public policies are in place or need to be in place for this activity.

“The League of Women Voters does not support political candidates or parties,” Connor said. “But we do take positions on issues of importance to our communities. The Colorado League sees fracking as an issue of importance to the whole state, but we have no position as yet, which is why we are doing a study. We are primarily looking at water issues, but we also think this is important to agriculture.”

Among the many poisonous chemicals used in hydrofracking are hydrochloric acid and numerous biocides. Farmers and ranchers have expressed opposition to the Feb. lease sale, as have local business owners.

“Colorado’s North Fork Valley has become a premier destination for its wineries, farms, orchards, artists, and food culture. Nothing about today’s North Fork was ever considered by the BLM in its 25-year old management plan and it is simply wrong, based upon that plan, to open these lands up for oil and gas,” said Ty Gillespie, owner and operator of Azura Cellars and Gallery in Paonia in a news release prepared by the non-profit Citizens for Healthy Community. “People here deserve better from our government than to be ignored, and America’s public lands deserve more as well.”

It is important to note that the North Fork Valley has a longstanding tradition of supporting energy development, Connor added.

“They have had coal mining up in that area for a long, long time,” she said, “and it works well. This is a different issue, and it is really important for everyone to know what is going on.”

Although BLM officials have been invited to present information about the Environmental Assessment at the forum, the agency had not yet made a decision as to attendance, and could not comment publicly at the time of this publication, Public Affairs Manager Shannon Borders said.

Learn more about the issues involved with fracking, and how this controversial drilling technique could affect your life and property. Call 970-249-8963 to register or to learn more about the “Fracking in our Backyard.”