COLORADO/NEW MEXICO


That loud sucking noise you hear from the San Juan Basin comes from 20,000 gas wells. Now, industry is targeting a state park for one more well pad. Navajo State Park, home to Navajo Lake — "Colorado’s answer to Lake Powell" — is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, which built Navajo Dam just south of the Colorado-New Mexico border in 1962. Colorado and New Mexico lease the land as state parks, while a private entity owns the subsurface mineral rights.

Colorado officials say drilling in a state park isn’t entirely unprecedented; wells already stand on the New Mexico side of the reservoir, and another one is slated for an eastern Colorado state park. Since a federal agency owns the land, the application, submitted by Energen Resources Corp., will undergo review according to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Energen proposed the gas well in the park after adjacent landowners demanded drilling restrictions on private land. John Barborinas, a Bureau of Indian Affairs fire specialist, lives next to the park and says the well will be in a wetlands area next to the reservoir. He says it would contaminate domestic water wells, foul air quality, disturb wildlife wintering grounds and lead to increased trespassing and noise pollution.

"There’s no place that’s sacrosanct" to the oil and gas industry, says Mark Pearson of the nonprofit San Juan Citizens Alliance.

Reclamation and Energen are finalizing details for the well pad, and a draft environmental assessment, open to public comment, will follow. For more information, contact Sugnet Environmental Inc. at sugnetco@sugnet.com.