WALDEN, Colo. (AP) – Energy development is increasing near the North Platte River from Colorado to Wyoming and sportsmen are worried it will hurt some of the most-pristine fishing areas in the region.

Since last year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved 15 drilling permits for companies seeking to tap the lucrative Niobrara formation in Jackson County. Nearly 50 have been approved for the area since 2007 and five more are pending.

Many of the approved wells are being drilled by EOG Resources, the Houston company that hit pay dirt with the “Jake” well near Grover, which quickly drew attention when it produced more than 1,500 barrels of oil in one day. The rush to drill was not far behind.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan first reported the story.

“The North Platte is a really important fishery to us,” said Cody Muchow, a fly fishing guide at St. Peter’s Fly Shop in Fort Collins.

According to the Colorado Fishing Network, the North Platte River is known for its fishing in Wyoming that starts in northern Colorado. A portion of this river has been designated both a Wild Trout and Gold Medal river. Major tributaries include Grizzly Creek, the Michigan and Illinois rivers.

EOG spokeswoman K Leonard declined comment about the company’s plans for the region. She pointed to an investor’s report that said EOG plans to drill 45 new Niobrara-tapping wells in Colorado this year.

Another major energy company targeting the formation, Bonanza Creek Energy, did not return calls seeking comment.

Sportsmen’s groups are concerned new oil and gas development will contaminate water, damage wildlife habitat and hurt tourism in North Park, the northern most of the three Colorado mountain valley open spaces.

Barbara Vasquez, a local organizer for the Colorado Wildlife Federation, said environmentalists are worried about drillers using fracking, a technique using sand, water and chemicals to crack open underground rock formations to release trapped oil and gas.

Kent Crowder, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s North Platte Basin Roundtable, said energy development and hunting and angling have a place in the economy, but concerns about one should not outweigh concerns about the other.

The Bonanza Creek Energy oil well being drilled along the Michigan River, also near Walden, was the site of a large drilling fluid spill last August soon after drilling began there, releasing about 20 barrels of drilling fluid and mud onto the ground. Some of the fluid escaped from the drilling site, but inspectors couldn’t find any evidence of surface water contamination.

LINK: http://www.coloradofishing.net/ft–nplat.htm

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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