Public concern too large to make a call just yet
The Gunnison County Planning Commission held a public hearing last Friday, February 6 to discuss the potential development of three new hydraulic fracturing (fracking) pits in the North Fork Valley. The pits, proposed by Gunnison Energy Corporation, would be installed near Sheep Creek, approximately 2.5 miles from the Paonia Reservoir and inside Gunnison County.
Russ Forrest, community development director for Gunnison County, told the News there was a lot of public input at the hearing and parties were curious about the cumulative impacts the pits could have in the future. He said input fell mostly under three categories: comments from those worried about wildlife preservation; perspectives from representatives of the fracking industry; and questions from parties against the proposed pits—those who are anti-fracking in general, and those who need to further understand the considerable impacts of the project. He cited local environmental advocacy group High Country Conservation Advocates as one example.
Forrest said there was so much public input to digest at Friday’s hearing that the Planning Commission members did not feel ready to give their staff any direction at the time. They decided to close the verbal commenting period, but written comments are still welcome until 5 p.m. on February 13.
On February 20, a work session will be held during which the pertinent issues will be discussed further. At that time, the Planning Commission will come up with a plan and should be able to direct staff to prepare a resolution. That’s where new conditions for approval could be considered and would be listed.
“[The resolution] doesn’t mean they’re going to approve the project,” Forrest said, “but [the Planning Commission] would essentially prepare something that says, ‘Here is the rationale, here are the standards. They either meet or don’t meet them. If we think they do meet them, here are some conditions for approval.’” Forrest anticipates a Planning Commission decision will be made at the March 6 meeting.