Garfield County OKs camp in state wildlife area |

Garfield County OKs camp in state wildlife area

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners have approved a special-use permit for an energy company to build temporary housing for up to four people in a state wildlife area.

Orion Energy Partners is drilling an exploratory gas well in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area south of New Castle. The company says the temporary housing will reduce daily traffic to and from the well site and affordable housing isn’t “readily available” in Garfield County.

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said the temporary housing was in place for eight days before the commissioners approved the special-use permit last week.

The division manages the state wildlife area.

New county regulations to take effect Sept. 1 will allow the energy industry to establish temporary housing units for up to eight people without a special-use permit. Companies would have to notify the sheriff’s office and fire districts of the housing, often called “man camps,” and comply with county standards.

Commissioner John Martin said the company would also have to have an agreement with the owner of the surface.

Although state wildlife officials didn’t want Orion Energy to drill in the 12,200-acre wildlife area, they couldn’t stop it because the state doesn’t own the mineral rights. Orion has leased rights to the minerals, owned by Gene and Mary Hilton.

The federal government also owns minerals under the state wildlife area.

“I would prefer they not drill in the state wildlife area personally,” said Ron Velarde, the Division of Wildlife’s northwest regional manager.

Velarde said the agreement allowing Orion to use the surface to reach the natural gas is one of the most “intense” the division has ever struck with an energy company. “We want them out of (Garfield Creek) as soon as possible,” he said.

Completion of work on the well is expected by mid-October, before the start of elk hunting season. Production from the well is expected to last 20 years.

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