Gypsum agrees to geothermal exploration |

Gypsum agrees to geothermal exploration

Derek Franz
Eagle Valley Enterprise
Vail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM, Colorado – At their Tuesday meeting, Gypsum town council members gave continued approval for geothermal exploration on town property at the airport.

The plan to drill an exploratory well about 4,000 feet deep at the Eagle County Regional Airport has been in the works since July 2010. Since then, lawyers for the town and the company who wants to do the drilling – Flint Eagle LLC – have been sorting issues of water, mineral and property rights.

“Thank you for entertaining this concept,” Robinson said to the council. “We feel we’re on solid ground after months of research.”

Robinson hopes to find water in the Rio Grande Rift that’s hot enough to use for heating or energy. The concept of going that deep is a relatively new one. Most geothermal resources that are used today are much closer to the earth’s surface.

“It’s a bit of legal pioneering that we’re doing,” Robinson said in January. “Nobody has done what we are trying to do, at least not in Colorado.”

Ramsey Kropf, a partner of a water law firm from Aspen – Patrick, Miller, Kropf – presented two agreements on Tuesday, which the town council members approved unanimously.

The first is a geothermal access and surface use agreement.

“It’s basically a land lease and royalty agreement,” Kropf said. She added that they must be careful the new agreement won’t violate other agreements the town currently has with Holy Cross Energy and SourceGas.

“There are also significant provisions that guide how drilling has to occur,” Kropf said.

The second agreement is the thermal supply agreement, which essentially lays out who will be responsible for what.

“The town will need to supply a heat exchanger that interfaces with the town’s existing boiler,” Robinson said. “Flint bears the costs all the way up to that point.”

Those agreements are assuming a usable geothermal resource is found.

The drilling for the exploratory well will take about two weeks to 30 days. The bore will only be 7 7/8 inches in diameter – just enough to see what’s down there. If there’s a resource, the diameter of the well will be expanded.

Council member Pam Schultz expressed concern about the noise pollution.

Robinson acknowledged that there will be diesel equipment running 24 hours a day until the drilling is completed.

“But the sound is temporary,” he said. “After that, when everything’s in place, it’ll be running quiet.”

Robinson also explained that the drilling equipment will be of the smaller variety.

“It’ll be a single 30-foot joint that’s used, as opposed to a triple,” he said. “A normal rig is 150 feet high.”

Kropf said notice about the drilling will have to be given to surrounding properties.

Robinson finished by saying the company will aim to drill when the weather is warmer and reiterated that the town has no financial risk with the exploration.

Rhonda Bell announced that Gypsum Creek Grill will be open at the town’s golf course April 1.

Bell partnered with Tom Edwards, a Gypsum Town Council member, and his wife, Margaret, on the restaurant venture. Their partnership is Bell Edwards Company.

The previous restaurant at the location, Big Valley Steakhouse, called it quits there last October. Edwards estimated his company will be about the sixth restaurant to try the location.

As promised, Gypsum resident Todd Duty approached town council about the idea of allowing ATVs on town streets.

“It’s a pain in the you-know-what to have to trailer up to go half a block to the trailhead,” Duty said. “If the town passed an ordinance to make it legal to drive ATVs on the road it could be a step toward making us more hunter friendly and bringing more tax revenue into town.”

The issue came to a head for Duty when his son was stopped on an ATV by a sheriff’s deputy. His son wasn’t ticketed.

“He doesn’t have a driver’s license and he can’t trailer up,” Duty said. “So he sneaks around to get to the trails.”

Jeff Shroll, Gypsum’s town manager, said state law will always trump town law. There are other problems associated with ATVs on the streets, too, he said.

“There’s a bigger picture to simply opening up the roads,” Shroll said.

Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver said the matter is one that will have to be taken up by the county and the state. Duty said he’ll take it that far if he can.

“I think you’re going to encounter some stiff opposition,” Carver said, pointing out that many council members own ATVs themselves. “It’s illegal now and it’s already abused – people drove their ATVs to the liquor store just last week.”

Duty brought an ordinance from a town in Utah, which allows ATVs on the roads to an extent. Council members basically said that was like comparing apples to oranges.

“I think I’ll go to the county next,” Duty said.

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