Montrose County commissioners would like the government to retain the Uranium Leasing Program they say is vital to the West End.

The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting comments on its draft programmatic environmental impact statement for the program, through which its Office of Legacy Management administers 31 lease tracts in the Uravan Mineral Belt.

“The Uranium Leasing Program is a critical mechanism for allowing access to domestic uranium and vanadium resources,” commissioners Ron Henderson, Gary Ellis and David White said in a formal written comment to the DOE on Monday.

“The ability to access these federally administered mineral resources is still important today.”

The commissioners said they concur with draft PEIS findings indicating that continuing the program would have negligible to minimal impact.

They tendered unanimous support for the fourth alternative listed in the draft PEIS, which would continue the program for at least the next 10 years.

“It allows continued access to those resources, the uranium and vanadium resources in the West End,” said Jon Waschbusch, county government affairs director. He said some of the other alternatives would not allow for the ULP’s continuation.

“There’s a couple alternatives that were evaluated that would have ended the program. It’s not a good idea in general,” he said.

The draft PEIS was released in March.

An earlier assessment was scrapped in 2011 after a 2008 lawsuit. The Office of Legacy Management in 2007 proposed expanding the ULP land from 13 to 31 leases and issued what opponents considered a weaker PEIS, then approved bids for most of the leases. (See Dick Kamp article in March 13 Daily Press.)

In a 2008 lawsuit, Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance and other plaintiffs, contended that the office failed to follow National Environmental Policy Act procedures.

The DOE’s website says that a programmatic environmental assessment conducted in 2007 led to a finding of no significant impact and a determination that an environmental impact statement was not required.

“The DOE has now determined that in light of additional site-specific information that the DOE has gathered as a result of the site-specific agency actions proposed ... it is now appropriate for the DOE to prepare a PEIS,” the site says.

The alternatives under the current draft PEIS are:

• Terminate all leases, with all operations to be reclaimed by lessees;

• End uranium leasing and relinquish lands, allowing the Bureau of Land Management to determine if the lands are suitable to be managed as part of the public domain;

• The DOE would continue uranium leasing as it existed before July 2007 with 13 active leases for the next 10-year period or for another reasonable period, and DOE would terminate the remaining leases;

• The DOE would continue uranium leasing as it existed before July 2007 with 13 active leases only for the next 10-year period or for another reasonable period, and DOE would terminate the remaining leases;

• No action — the ULP would continue with 31 lease tracts until 2018, and the leases would continue exactly as they were issued in 2008.

The draft PEIS looked at potential effects on several health and environmental fronts, including air quality, geology, water resources, land use, socioeconomics, transportation, cultural resources and waste management.

The DOE also looked at possible cumulative effects that could occur.

Comments are accepted until May 16. Visit http://tinyurl.com/uraniumcomment.

For more information and documents, visit http://ulpeis.anl.gov.

 

Wick Communications environmental liaison Dick Kamp contributed to this report.


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