640 new oil, gas wells proposed south of Strawberry River

Brian Maffly – The Salt Lake Tribune

Oil and gas developers are pursuing plans to drill 640 wells south of the Strawberry River between Strawberry and Starvation reservoirs in Duchesne County.

As proposed, the project would include drilling inside the Strawberry River Wildlife Management Area — land set aside to mitigate environmental damage from the Central Utah Project and other federal water projects. The management area safeguards wildlife migration corridors and critical populations of native cutthroat trout. It also supports public recreation.

Berry Petroleum Co. is proposing the Avintaquin Canyon Exploration and Development Project on 34,254 acres that fall within the borders of the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. While not all the land is owned by the Ute Indian Tribe, the tribe owns 81 percent of the mineral estate inside the project area, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

An Environmental Assessment began last month to gauge its impacts, and the bureau is accepting comments until Friday on what the assessment should include.

About 30 percent of the land in the project area is privately owned, the bureau’s public notice said. Fourteen percent is owned by the state, forming the Timber Canyon unit of the Avintaquin Wildlife Management Area.

The notice fails to mention the federal government owns 2,450 surface acres, or 7 percent of the total. It includes land that forms a critical stretch of the Strawberry River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). (…)

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