BLM will study environmental impact of quarry wells
The Bureau of Land Management will conduct an environmental assessment on the potential impacts of five water wells at the RMR Industrial quarry.
“After reviewing the public comments received on the drilling proposal, the BLM is preparing an environmental assessment, which will include a detailed analysis of the potential impacts of the drilling proposal,” BLM spokesman David Boyd said in an email.
The five wells are required to establish a baseline for the BLM to begin environmental review of the quarry expansion proposal.
In October, the BLM began seeking comment on whether they could approve the five test wells under a categorical exclusion, the lowest form of environmental review.
The BLM received 250 comments, all opposed to the categorical exclusion, during the comment period. On Dec. 5, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) wrote to state BLM director Jamie Connell asking for a more rigorous environmental review.
Tipton urged the BLM to “operate under an abundance of caution in the area, especially regarding any activity that may impact the hydrology of the hot springs,” and referred to comments from Glenwood Springs City Council on the five proposed wells.
“As a community, we are especially grateful to Rep. Scott Tipton, who raised his concerns directly with the BLM as they were making this decision,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes.
“And while the Glenwood Springs community remains steadfastly opposed to the quarry expansion, we applaud the BLM for listening to the public’s concerns. An environmental assessment will provide the more thorough analysis necessary to understand potential impacts the drilling will have on the hydrological sources of our hot springs,” Godes said.
The owners of the hot springs resorts in Glenwood Springs raised one of the more concerning potential impacts of the five test wells.
Drilling at the quarry site could irreparably damage the fragile and complex underground water pathways that feed the hot springs, the hot springs resort owners said.
Steve Beckley, owner of Iron Mountain Hot Springs, applauded the BLM’s decision.
“We think the BLM made the right decision, and we believe it’s best that people get the opportunity to review the impacts of things that happen next door to us,” Beckley said.
After the environmental assessment, the BLM will make a decision on whether to approve the five wells. Boyd said he expects the decision to come in early 2020.
“The BLM is requiring the hydrologic baseline study so that it can better determine what impacts the proposed quarry expansion could have on the hydrology and water resources in the area,” Boyd said.
A larger environmental review of the quarry expansion proposal, including public meetings, is expected to begin later in 2020.