Three years ago when gas-drilling activities were minimal, the Grand Junction City Council rejected a municipal ordinance that would have beefed up the protection and control of its watershed areas on Grand Mesa. Unforeseen by city officials was the prospect that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would sell thousands of acres of gas drilling leases where Grand Junction draws its water supplies.
But, that’s exactly what happened earlier this year. Despite protests from the Cities of Grand Junction and Palisade and Congressman John Salazar, the BLM leased 13,000 acres for gas drilling on Grand Mesa. Not believing BLM promises that water protection measures would be in place when drilling proceeds, a group of alarmed citizens are promoting a new Grand Junction watershed protection ordinance for voter approval this November.
The Concerned Citizens Alliance, a chapter of the Western Colorado Congress, needs 1,500 signatures to get their petition on the ballot. Ironically, some Alliance members had recently moved to Grand Junction to escape drilling impacts in Garfield County.
Western Garfield County has experienced drilling accidents where several private water wells, irrigation ditches and mountain streams have been contaminated by toxic drilling by-products or chemical truck spills.
Should the measure pass, it will increase Grand Junction’s ability to regulate industrial activities such as major soil excavation and the transportation and use of large quantities of hazardous materials. The ordinance would also make gas drillers post a 100% bond to cover potential clean-up costs and require energy companies to add more pollution prevention measures to their drilling activities.