A view from inside Wilson Arch. The new proposed Wesco oil rig would be roughly on the west side of Highway 191. The BLM public comment period on the well ended Nov. 14. Ryan Collins photo
Public comment period ended Nov. 14 on a proposed oil well 1.7 miles southeast from Looking Glass Rock on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintained land. Residents in the Wilson Arch Resort Community are questioning the move.
Many claim the BLM has thousands of other locations and acreage to choose from. Some urge that the well is being placed there out of convenience.
The San Juan County Commission discussed the Wesco Operating Inc. project during an Oct. 23 work session meeting.
County Liaison Jerry McNeely said at the Oct. 23 work session that the BLM was going to put a well near the Wilson Arch area. McNeely gave a brief description of a previous well that was near the same location in the past.
“We do have a drill site going in at the Wilson Arch area,” McNeely said at the work session. Commissioner Bruce Adams asked if letters had been given out to residents, to which it was said they were going out immediately. No more discussion was held at the meeting in regards to the proposed well.
At the Nov. 6 commission meeting, the proposed drilling well subject was brought up again. McNeely informed the commission of several complaints received since the previous meeting.
“I’ve been getting a lot, a lot of phone calls on the Wilson Arch drill site,” McNeely said. “They’re all worried about the water and all that stuff that everybody worries about.”
McNeely went on to name one of the complainants as Marian Delay, who was the former Director of the Moab Area Travel Council.
Delay and McNeely are personally acquainted, according to McNeely, and Delay recently reached out to him as a resident of the Wilson Arch Community. There was no more discussion at the Nov. 6 meeting in regards to the complaints received by McNeely.
“Due to the proximity to a local community, the BLM chose to hold a public scoping period early in the process, in order to understand peoples’ concerns and determine if the BLM should consider additional alternatives or resource protection measures in its environmental analysis,” a background release from Public Relations Specialist with the BLM Lisa Bryant reads.
Additional specifications released from the BLM in regards to the project include:
Wesco Operating Inc. is a company under Kirkwood Oil and Gas, LLC, who acquired assets, including this lease, from Fidelity Exploration & Production Company in the spring of 2016.
The proposed well pad is approximately 1,700 feet south of the private property boundary.
The proposed project is on public lands, on a lease which was issued in 2001.
Wesco Operating Inc. is proposing to access the proposed well site using a public road which passes through the Wilson Arch community.
County Road 179 is a public road maintained by San Juan County.
Two maps and a copy of the proposed surface plan (which contains detailed site diagrams and information) are available at https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/projectSummary.do?methodName=renderDefaultProjectSummary&projectId=116510 or by using the shortened URL: https://go.usa.gov/xPnyA
This Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining interactive map enables you to zoom in on the area and see what existing wells and facilities exist. It also shows plugged and abandoned wells.
For Wilson Arch Resort Community resident Craig Simpson, his concerns are on par with many of the other residents’ concerns.
“I completely understand the need for natural resources,” Simpson said. “I’m retired military, and I know that we couldn’t have done what we needed to do overseas without oil and gas. I’m all for this. I’m all for exploration being done and wells being drilled. I just think it’s a little irresponsible to put it this close to a community like this.”
Simpson went on to say that he is concerned about pollutants getting into the water system, as well as xplosions, flareback, hazardous materials, the access that the BLM intends on using during the project, and the potential of breaking water pipes in the area.
“I’ve done quite a bit of research trying to figure out some things on this,” Simpson said. “If this is approved, all parties involved have done their due diligence and made sure that they have identified every risk possible and have mitigated that risk as close to zero as they possibly can.”
Simpson said he has been doing risk assessment for the military for over 30 years and based off that experience he said, “I know that there is no way possible that you can get it down to zero.”
Despite the concern that many residents have shown, the BLM and Bryant feel as though much of the risk assessment has centered around resident concerns and that the BLM has done their due diligence.
“The proposed well pad is about a half-mile south of the property boundary there,” Bryant said. “With respect to groundwater, I completely understand their concerns, and I want to be respectful of that. And that’s one of the reasons we went out with this scoping opportunity early on in the process, is we want to hear that feedback, so when we do the project analysis and the environmental review, that we are addressing all those concerns.”