Volume 2, Number 10 - June 6, 2002
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Raises and bridges: Things are looking up
It's been a marathon week for the Sublette County Commission, holding three full days of meetings to conduct regular business and work on the new county budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
While work on each departmental budget is still in the early stages, the commission has made it clear that its intention is to provide a two-percent raise to county personnel on the step schedule.
The commission also agreed to up the mileage reimbursement rate from the 32.5 cents per mile to 36.5 cents per mile, matching the current rate approved by the Internal Revenue Service.
Commissioner Gordon Johnston spoke briefly with Linda Baker, a local staff representative of several environmental organizations, and told his fellow commissioners that he was signing a letter protesting the issuance of six natural gas leasing parcels being offered for sale by the Bureau of Land Management. Johnston said the parcels are within a big game migration corridor, and notified his comrades that he signed the letter as both a retired Marine and as a Sublette County Commissioner. The letter is directed to BLM State Director Al Pierson, but Johnston wouldn't provide a copy of the letter, citing the fact that he is signing onto the letter of protest with one other party.
"There are more people involved than me," Johnston said, noting the other party would have to agree to having his or her name released. Once the letter is received at the BLM office, it does become public record.
A group of natural gas company representatives attended Tuesday's meeting to listen to discussions about the possibility of placing a bridge and road across the New Fork River, providing a connection between two areas of industrial activity. It's an idea that has been broached before in the last two years, and Sublette County Road Superintendent Mike McGinnis prompted the renewed interest. Currently, industrial traffic wanting to access the crest of the Pinedale Anticline from the south must use Paradise Road to get onto the main BLM roads on the Mesa. The proposed road connection and bridge would tie in a direct access route between Paradise Road and the Boulder South Road, eliminating a great deal of heavy truck traffic from the length of these county roads.
Wayne and Kay Jensen are the private property owners on the south side of the river who would have to agree to the project, but Doc Jensen is the property owner north of the river who would have to approve of the deal as well. Wayne and Kay were at the meeting, but Doc Jensen and his wife weren't notified because McGinnis said he wasn't aware that they also owned part of the land potentially affected.
Wayne Jensen said while he was willing to consider any proposals, "I really don't think it ought to be a county road." He said he would rather grant an easement through his property to the natural gas companies, not the county.
Kay Jensen said, "We can see the sense in having the road there," but said the couple needs a firm proposal for consideration.
Commissioner Betty Fear urged McGinnis to pay a visit to Doc Jensen, pointing out, "If we don't get the right-of-way from Doc Jensen, then the whole issue is moot."
When asked if the companies would help pay for the road and bridge, or pay the cost entirely, none of the company representatives would or could make a commitment for their companies, but several spoke favorably of the project.
Bob Jones of Shell Rocky Mountain said, "There's certainly some advantages to us as a company" in having the project completed and Shell's participation would be considered.
Sam McClure with Ultra Production agreed with Jones and said there are problems associated with the use of Paradise Road, including blind corners and narrow cattleguards: "It's not a real safe road."
Bill Fiant of Anticline Disposal said there will be a water disposal pit opening soon on the south side of the river, and having the route across the river would eliminate the need for trucks to come off the crest, travel south on Paradise, cross the river on Highway 351 and travel north back up Boulder South to the disposal pit.
Wayne Jensen said the new route is preferred "rather than beat up both county roads on each side of the river."
Commissioner Bill Cramer said if McGinnis can meet with Doc Jensen to discuss his willingness to consider the idea, and if industry is willing to work with the county, "We'll do what we can, because we appreciate you being here."
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