BIG GAS WELL DRILLING PLAY IN ARCULETA COUNTY
A few days back I took a long drive down Cat Creek Road. The last time I traveled more than five miles down this road was when I was showing the Candelaria Ranch to a client from Boston, about five years ago. Not much had changed along most of the route. There are still many thousands of acres of dry grazing lands, what isn’t now part of the Southern Ute Tribal lands is mostly owned by the Gallegos, Espinosa, Pacheco and Padilla families that have been in the area for many years. It is still an area that suffers from a lack of good developed water resources. The limited amount of surface water draining through the area won’t support much crop production, nor will it provide good livestock grazing. There are a few places along the way where the creeks provide enough flow for shallow wells and some irrigation, but not many.
Decades ago, much of the land was home to thousands of sheep, but the sheep industry began to decline significantly after World War II and into the 1950’s. The loss of labor from World War II, changes in consumer preferences as well as the repeal of the National Wool Act all contributed to a substantial reduction in the size of the sheep herds grazing lands here in Southwest Colorado and across America. Today you are more likely to see large herds of elk and mule deer where once thousands of sheep grazed, watched over by descendants of the early Spanish settlers.
The scenery is still gorgeous and interesting; with large rock outcroppings, tall ridgelines covered with Ponderosa Pines and huge gently rolling grassy parks, divided by deep arroyos from periods of heavy rain and fast runoff.
As I traveled further south I passed the Espinosa, Pacheco and Padilla family lands before reaching Pagosa Junction. It was disappointing to see the old wooden water tower along the rail siding had collapsed, and few buildings were still standing on the site of the once thriving lumber town. Apparently the last of the descendants of the families that settled and ranched in the area have left Pagosa Junction, and time and weather have taken over. (I will write more about Pagosa Junction in later articles). The San Juan River quietly flows by what is left of Pagosa Junction on its way to Navajo Reservoir.
Continuing south below the merger of Cat Creek and Trujillo Roads, the scenery begins to change drastically. The county road has been widened and evidence of a major natural gas pipeline installation is seen parallel to the road. There are lines of survey stakes along the right side of the road. Ahead a bit further on the left is a large well drilling rig and an operations yard with job site trailers and RV’s for the oilfield workers. I steer to the far right of the road to allow several large low-boy trucks to pass with their cargo of huge tanks and drilling supplies. I pass half a dozen other trucks hauling materials, equipment and supplies to the drilling site. Driving ahead another 4-5 miles I spotted another large drilling rig and passed more oilfield service trucks heading to and from the second drilling rig. I continued to Highway 151 and drove south towards Arboles, pulling off the highway to look across the lake, back towards the drilling rigs. This is a big change for the neighborhood. My later research at the courthouse confirmed the drilling activity has generated a flurry of leases for land and mineral owners in the area. Additionally, far more than the two sites I viewed have been approved for well drilling. The big players in the area are Red Willow Production Company, an affiliate of the Southern UteTribe: www.rdpc.us and Energen, an oil and gas exploration and production company headquartered in Alabama. www.energen.com . You can view the location of the drilling activity and permitted drill sites from this link: http://www.eser.org/10-32n-5w-archuleta-county-colorado
What, if anything will this drilling and pipeline activity do for the coffers of Archuleta County? Will this generate any substantial taxes for our county? Given the distance from Pagosa, much is taking place outside the viewing range of most of our residents. Property owners in nearby Andrews and Piedra Park subdivisions and Arboles are watching closely. Changes in groundwater quality and quantity in the area will also become a concern as we have seen over the years in La Plata County. Perhaps more of the county property residents and owners should join in and keep and pay attention to what is developing. For information on real estate market conditions or properties available for sale, be sure to check our website: