CDOT Fights Over Mineral Rights

Who owns the mineral rights under an interstate highway?There are 70 acres under I-70 asphalt between Rifle and Silt that the Colorado Department of Transportation says it owns after a 1975 eminent domain condemnation. However, the former property owner, Gypsum ranch Co. LLC, insists that the eminent domain only included the subsurface estate for the construction of the highway. Gypsum Ranch owners maintain they still own the minerals underneath I-70.

The Attorney General’s office has been adamant that CDOT acquired both surface and mineral right ownership to the property.

In the middle of this debate is Antero Resources which wants to drill for natural gas along this stretch of highway. So, they decided to arrange a mineral lease from both CDOT and Gypsum Ranch and will let the two entities fight over the royalties. The worth of the gas is unknown right now because it depends on production levels and market value.

In Colorado, the transfer of mineral rights has not always been clearly recorded with the resale of property. Those details didn’t matter much until new extraction methods have made drilling more profitable and royalty payments substantial. Many landowners have been surprised to learn that they have no control on gas development on their property because they did not own the mineral rights.

Now, the question has been posed: do public entities always own the mineral rights on property acquired by eminent domain condemnation?

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