BLM’s Jill Silvey, Elko District Manager & Rich Adams, Tuscarora Field Office Manager, came before the Commission. Adams began with questions about oil and gas leasing happening in Eureka County. Adams shared a map of parcels that are being considered for 2015 for a gas sale to be held in Reno. Two parcels are in Eureka and Elko County. “All these parcels went through our Environmental Assessment” and passed the State Office for potential leasing. Adams said what happens is parcels are GIS’d and are assessed in four mile boundaries for environmental sensitivities in particular related to Sage Grouse habitat to be determined what kind of stipulations will be attached to them. 7,000 comments came in primarily related to wild horse and burro access to water impact. Through consultation with the local tribal communities and councils two additional parcels south of Spruce Mountain in Elko were added. The review is still underway and upon completion the Decision Record will be signed by the BLM’s Deputy State Director of Minerals.

Silvey related that in oil and gas development there are two phases, the leasing, the BLM sells the rights for someone to develop and in the future the party may or may not choose to go into development.

Goicoechea asked why the BLM has chosen a 4-mile Sage Grouse lek buffer since “we’re seeing everything from 2, to 3, to 6 coming out of the USGS.” Adams said that is the direction of the BLM State Office since, “while there is a wide range of buffers,” 4 miles was one that “balanced a difference of opinions.”

Adams said, “When the lease is purchased and the company wants to come in to develop it one of the things we do is do an on-site and actually fine tune what’s going to happen out there.” Adams said the stipulations let developers know what they have to take into account.

Adams said Noble has 4 approved application permits to drill based on previous EA work that they can go and drill based on what conditions apply to those locations. They’ve drilled one well in Huntington this fall; pulled a rig off, drilled a well in Mary’s River; a couple of weeks ago Noble did fracking on the Huntington well where they developed three zones. They are looking at working the Mary’s River site next spring. The one in Huntington, the first level, they ran into a situation where they ended up plugging and came back with a reworked rig and cleaned out the bore and re-fracked the two zones and pulled off the rig. “They’re doing some production off it but” they’re “waiting to see what the market does.” Adams said, “They getting some production but they aren’t actively pumping it yet. They’re doing on-site storage so when they get a storage unit full then they’ll they bring it to the refinery in Salt Lake.”

Adams said it could take a year for them to determine it’s economical to pump.

Adams said another company, EFT (Energy From Texas) is looking to drill a well west of Nobel’s project in Cedar Ridge and a third party consultant is doing an EA and Adams feels they are close to being able to do a review and work with the contractor.

Related to mining in Eureka County, they have two projects in Eureka County including the ‘Exodus’ project, a Newmont project that would involve putting in vents for an existing operation; and Barrick’s Mill Canyon which involves exploration of doing parallel declines partway up Mill Canyon. “Obviously there’s historical/cultural issues” being addressed as well as wildlife concerns. “It’s a pretty intact riparian area so water quality and that” have to be considered, Adams said. Barrick wants to put in rapid infiltration basins down in the flats at the mouth of the canyon and want to bring power in. The comment period has been extended to the 15th of January.

Regarding permit renewals, the Elko BLM is looking at two complexes, Buckhorn, the Pine Valley and Crescent Valley and are grouping allotments if the resources and permittees are preexistent. Presently they are finishing bill collecting and don’t expect to be sending out draft determinations until late 2015 or early 2016. Monitoring data is being collected through Great Basin Institute interns following a BLM protocol. Adams is also pushing to get existing trend information as complementary data to use “more holistic information to use in those determinations.”
Goicoechea asked if they’re looking for blanket reductions for permittees by allotment. The Elko BLM is doing it allotment by allotment and having conversations one on one with permittees and are looking at the ground with permittees. “If and when we ever have those places where we are in conflict we’ll be talking to you long in advance before it ever gets out of hand.”

The Elko BLM implemented no Drought Decisions in the past year. Adams said, “I think we deal with trouble spots and met with permittees ahead of time to work out something.” Adams said, “It’s a testament to our ability to communicate and work with permittees so we’re able to resolve, to deal with issues, before they became problematic for everybody.” Adams said they’ll follow that model through the grazing season and asked if the Commission has areas of concern to please let Adams know “and make sure they’re on our radar screen. What I’m concerned about is water or lack thereof this year.” Adams said last year a number of springs weren’t running. “I think we’ll do alright grass wise. I think water wise it will be problematic.”

Goicoechea said he appreciated the model and said in terms of the lack of water he encouraged permittees to get in early to talk about water. “Is there a commitment from you guy’s office to get sites for water hauls done?”

Adams thanked Goicoechea for bringing that up and said having realized due to their protocols they can’t make changes quickly that it is critical permittees anticipating needing water get with the Elko BLM early because they’ll have to go through the NEPA process.

Goicoechea commented he appreciated the “good line of communication” with the Elko office.