County: OHV Signage, Culvert Access & Conservation District Update

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RBC | Commissioners met Tuesday, April 27, to discuss the following public business.

OHV SIGNAGE

RBC Emergency and Natural Resources Manager Eddie Smercina and Public Information/Program manager Carly Thompson presented to the board some OHV signage around Meeker that is in “rough shape.” Based on a recent replacement project for OHV signage in Rangely, county staff estimated around $4,300 to replace 11 signs in locations like Yellow Jacket, Miller Creek and Tenth Street. The board discussed potential funding options for replacing the signs, including putting in an application to Colorado Parks and Wildlife during their annual grant cycle. Budget and Finance director Janae Stanworth also noted potential funding from the conservation trust fund, which is designated for recreational purposes, the utility-passback funded commissioner discretionary grant fund (CDGF) which includes at least $10K budgeted every year for community service projects. County staff was directed to look further into the suggested funding mechanisms for future consideration.

TERRA ENERGY CULVERT ACCESS

Natural Resources Manager Eddie Smercina also asked the board about a recent inquiry from Terra Energy Partners (TEP), who wants to run four produced water lines across CR24. According to recent site visits by Smercina, TEP has a drilling rig and compressor station on opposite sides of the road. They have requested the ability to run their water lines through an existing culvert, something county policy would generally not allow for due to flooding and other liability reasons. Commissioner Rector noted how the county is typically opposed to pipelines in culverts, “We don’t want to set a precedent on this.”

County Attorney Don Steerman agreed that it was important for the county not to promote any kind of policy allowing people to lay pipes through culverts, which he said decreases the function and capacity of the drainage feature. He noted that commissioners could make an exception, but advised them to use an indemnification agreement to avoid liability for the county.

An alternative solution to using the culvert would be to cut up the pavement of the road to lay the pipes, or to bore under the road, both of which would cost more for TEP than using the existing culvert. The board agreed that helping out industry partners was the right thing to do in the situation, given the time-sensitive nature of the drilling process.

Staff noted that management of the project will now take place through the county road and bridge department’s existing permit system, with the advice of Steerman.

CONSERVATION DISTRICTS

Callie Hendrickson, executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, said the current MOU agreement between RBC and the conservation districts is working out with the districts and county splitting responsibilities regarding management of grazing, wildfires, natural resources and more. Hendrickson did express a desire for both entities to be more communicative with one another moving forward, using the county’s recent wolf resolution as an example of something conservation district board members would have liked to weigh in on.

Hendrickson discussed a “coordinated resources plan” developed in partnership with BLM, forest service, CPW, the permit team and others. She said more than 16,000 acres have already been identified as needing treatment for brush management. Following regulatory processes including NEPA, Hendrickson said a project could potentially begin in 2022.

She also said she and county staff had been reviewing the county’s land use code, which she noted will likely need to be updated after significant changes to the NEPA process during the Trump administration. The districts are hiring extra legal help to do work related to the proposed policy updates. The proposed changes should go up on the conservation district’s website prior to adoption so the public can provide input.

Hendrickson finished her presentation with a discussion of instream flow water rights. She said there are more proposed rights on the White River than she’d ever seen in one year, and wanted to get a “gameplan” ready. She noted that the protest period for proposed instream flow water rights is currently open, but said the districts for now should focus on the integrated water management plan.

REGULAR MEETING

During their regular meeting, some board actions were:

  • approved CRRSAA grants for Meeker and Rangely airports totaling $9,000 each
  • approved an alcohol permission letter to the Meeker Arts and Cultural Council for upcoming “Meekerpalooza” events on June 18 and 25
  • appointed Diane Mobley to the Board of Health
  • approved a letter of neutrality to Colorado Parks and Wildlife regarding the fee title land acquisition of the Crystal Creek Ranch
  • approved an agreement for the use and benefit of the Rio Blanco County Department of Health and Environment to participate in the CDPHE Child Fatality Prevention Act Program.
  • approved an FAA funded bid award of $549K to American Road Maintenance for airport pavement

TREE REMOVAL

Following a discussion in a work session last week, the board again talked about removal of some trees outside the Meeker courthouse. According to county staff and officials, some of the trees represent a safety hazard and should be removed, including an elm on the east side that is “beginning to split,” a pine tree off Park next to the basketball court, and an ash west of the plaza. Another still healthy tree “in an inconvenient spot” was proposed for removal, but the board decided against it. Staff has been directed to proceed with the removal of damaged/hazardous trees.


By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com