By Cindy Glasson
Thermopolis Independent Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange
THERMOPOLIS — More information and independent studies are coming in regarding the Moneta Divide Natural Gas and Oil Development Project proposed by Aethon Energy and Burlington Resources Oil and Gas Company.
Joseph Meyer, PhD, chief scientist with Applied Limnology Professionals, a water quality consulting firm out of Colorado is very concerned with the salinity of the water that will be dumped into Boysen Reservoir at the Badwater Creek mixing zone.
There are three species of fish on the “species of concern” list that spawn in the proposed mixing zone according to the Wyoming Natural Resource Database. Sauger fish are the most important as they migrate upstream to spawn in the Wind River, Little Wind River and Popo Agie.
The fish are more sensitive to saline waters in chronic exposures according to Dr. Meyer, and there would need to be a much higher dilution in the mixing zone than is proposed in order for their survival and reproduction.
Ceriodaphinia dubia, a species of water fleas that live in fresh water lakes, Daphnia magna, a fresh water plankton and food source for fish, and fathead minnows may not survive the salinity in the area.
According to retired University of Wyoming Professer Harold Bergman, none of this looks good for expected chemistry in Badwater Creek or the mixing zone if the Wyoming Game and Fish intends to continue to use these waters as a good nursery habitat.
Bottom line, this proposed dumping area could significantly lower the number of certain species of fish, not only in Boysen Reservoir, but in the Wind River Canyon as well, due to the impact on the nursery area.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was recently denied a request by Dan Heilig of the Wyoming Outdoor Council for a field tour of the Moneta Divide Project, raising questions about transparency for the entire project.
Former county planner, Lee Campbell also has some questions about whether or not the proposed dumping area from Badwater Creek into Boysen is a mapped wetland.
According to Campbell, sediment cannot be discharged directly into wetlands and that area is already severely impacted by not only the highway, but the railroad and a pipeline that crosses the area.
One thing that appears not to have been addressed in Aethon’s proposal is the fluxuation of water levels within Boysen. Some years the reservoir runs low due to drought conditions, while other years it climbs into the flood stage. These fluxuations will affect the mixing zones, year to year, over the expected 65 years of the project.
The production area encompasses approximately 265,434 acres which will include treated water discharge pipelines, disposal wells and associated facilities in the Shotgun and Madison disposal areas and a product pipeline that will travel through Fremont and Sweetwater counties to carry the product to Rawlins.
Aethon proposes to drill 4,100 directional and vertical natural gas and oil wells from single and multi-well pads during a 15-year development period. Burlington proposes to drill a maximum of 150 directional and vertical natural gas wells from single-well pads during that same 15 year period.
Two public meetings are scheduled regarding the permit request by Aethon, one to be held in Riverton at Central Wyoming College on Monday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m. and the second to be held here in Thermopolis at the auditorium on Tuesday, May 21, also at 5:30 p.m.
Public comments are being taken until June 5.