State: BLM suspends leases for two cities’ watersheds for a year |

State: BLM suspends leases for two cities’ watersheds for a year

— Despite vocal opposition from residents of Grand Junction and Palisade, the Bureau of Land Management said Thursday it will issue oil and gas leases in the two cities’ watersheds, though the leases will be suspended for a year.

The BLM said the delay was meant to give time for lessees to work with communities to address residents’ concerns.

BLM Colorado State Director Sally Wisely said she believed all the relevant laws and regulations have been followed and that everything necessary to protect the resource will be done before any surface-disturbing activity takes place. “We are committed to make sure this is done right,” she said.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., praised the decision to suspend the development. “My hope is that this delay will allow the communities of Palisade and Grand Junction to work out a plan with the lessee that protects their watersheds,” he said in a written statement. “I take protecting Colorado’s watersheds very seriously.”

On Tuesday, activists in Grand Junction turned in twice as many signatures as needed to put a measure before voters giving the city additional power to protect the water supply.

The group Concerned Citizens Alliance, a chapter of the conservation group Western Colorado Congress, launched the initiative drive after federal oil and gas leases were sold on thousands of acres in the watersheds of Grand Junction and neighboring Palisade.

In February, about 13,000 acres in areas that supply drinking waters for Grand Junction and Palisade were among roughly 135,000 acres leased in an auction by the BLM. The federal government owns the minerals under the land.

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