24 Jan 2010, 9:52pm
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BLM to auction steam beneath Chalk Creek Valley landowners

Residents wary of geothermal plant

By Mark Jaffe, The Denver Post, January 24, 2010 [here]

Nathrop, Colorado - Syd Schieren uses the geothermal waters of the Chalk Creek Valley to heat his organic-vegetable greenhouse. Harold Palmer uses the water to heat his house, and Patty Kreski rents a vacation home with its own hot spring.

The hot springs are the biggest lure to this scenic valley at the foot of Mount Princeton, but they are now the source of a looming fight over whether it will be the site of the state’s first geothermal electric plant.

“What is frustrating is that they keep referring to this as an untapped resource, and a lot of people living here have been using it for years,” Schieren said.

On February 11, the Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to offer the first lease for geothermal development in Colorado — 800 acres in the Chalk Creek Valley.

Why the valley? Because an unidentified party nominated the land for lease sale. It is bureau policy not to reveal the nominator until after the sale.

And following a congressional mandate, the bureau is trying to expedite geothermal leases in the West.

“Congress voted for us to identify the low-hanging fruit, get out of the way and let the market decide,” said Kermit Witherbee, manager of the bureau’s national geothermal program.

That has left property owners worried and frustrated, because most of the lease acreage is on private land but the federal government owns the mineral rights below.

“The whole process seems to have been fast-tracked without a lot of details being worked out,” said Schieren, who lives and has hot spring vacation rentals in the valley.

Federal and state officials are still trying to work out an agreement over control of well drilling and water management — since state law controls the use of Colorado’s water.

“We don’t own the land,” said Witherbee. “We don’t own the water. We own the heat.” … [more]



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