The Bureau of Land Management is considering a new proposal for natural gas exploration near Whitewater. The proposal calls for hundreds of new wells to be drilled along the slopes of the Grand Mesa.
The proposal, submitted by Aspen Operating, LLC calls for the construction, drilling, and operation of 174 new wells on 14 new and 10 existing sites. While many say that a project this large is good for the local economy, others say it's only worth it if the BLM makes sure a nearby city watershed is left undisturbed.
The oil and gas industry rakes in an estimated $23 billion annually to the state and provides jobs to more than 70,000 Coloradans.
"It's good for our economy that there is a lot of natural gas in Western Colorado," said State Representative Bernie Buescher.
All that natural gas is exactly why one company wants to begin drilling in Mesa County, just a few miles southeast of Whitewater.
"It's going to be drilled," said Buescher. "I'm pleased that it's going to be drilled."
But some say having natural gas wells so close to Mesa County and a major city watershed gives them reason to be concerned.
"The spills we had up at Black Mountain and just how far that material went really underscores the importance of having good, solid setbacks from any streams," said Hannah Holm, a project leader with the Western Colorado Congress.
Members of the Western Colorado Congress say they will continue to monitor the situation closely and take an appropriate course of action when a finalized plan comes down from the BLM.
"We hope they're extra careful with that drinking water supply," said Holm.
They say they're pleased to see the BLM is not taking this decision lightly.
"I was encouraged to read that they do plan to work with the City of Grand Junction to make sure that they're following the city's water shed regulations," said Holm.
A good sign, leaders say, that the balance between energy and environment will be met.
"It needs to be drilled in a responsible matter and most of the companies do a really good job of that," said Buescher.
The BLM is asking for public input on the matter. They are accepting comments until July 7. Comments may be mailed to the BLM Grand Junction Field Office at 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506. Comments can also be emailed to GJFO_webmail@blm.gov.