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Book Cliffs Highway Application Submission of 2020 and all other previous applications

July 13, 2020
by John Weisheit

The proposed highway section in Grand County would begin at its northern boundary at the top of the Book Cliffs (elevation is generally 8,000 feet). The highway section in Uintah County is alread paved and ends at its southern boundary. Before pavement, it was known as Seep Ridge Road. This lonely highway is already in need of repairs due to subsidence in the roadbase.

This paved highway (driving south) begins at the Green River Bridge near Ouray, Utah. The lateral roads go to existing oil and gas fields (mostly natural gas). However, demonstration sites that propose to strip mine oil shale (hard rock kerogen) and tar sands deposits are directly adjacent to this paved highway. These demonstration sites of unconventional fuels are not operational for several reasons, which include poor return on investment and lack of water for production.

For a good return on investment, it is necessary to develop hundreds-of-thousands of acres, but the quantity of water supplies to develop this unconventional oil resource at this level are not cheaply available. The water managers of the Colorado River Basin are currently managing a serious water shortage situation and hydropower production inefficiencies due to low reservoir levels. This water scarcity condition has two explanations:

(1) Maximum water consumption in the Colorado River Basin was achieved in Year 2003 (USBR Graphic).

(2) The consequence of global greenhouse gas loading in the atmosphere, for the arid lands of Western USA, has served to increase water demand due to increasing evaporation (heat).

Fossil fuel production in Uintah and Duschene County is not managed properly at the level of investor financing. The goal is to exploit the resource as quickly as possible to guarantee a return on investment. The drive is not about demand for the resource, but rather for investor demand.

The resource reserves will be gone very soon and we already know the reclamation of the extraction sites will not happen at the same pace as the production did. It is already an embarrassing spectacle to visit and in the near future it will be a tragic wasteland, rather than a functioning and productive ecosystem.

The proponents of this highway insist that the highway will become a an attraction for tourism. It is absurd to think the visiting public would want to visit a wasteland of extreme fossil fuel activities. Indeed, this highway is about expanding this industrial hydrocarbon wasteland and this activity will not incentivize the tourist dollar.

The lack of decent stewardship in the management of these Public lands is incomprehensible and the current policies that encourage short-term gains for long-term consequences must be abandoned immediately.



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