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County proposes Memorandum of Understanding with Southern Ute Tribe

Viewed as a “baby step” toward improving relations, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Archuleta County and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Tuesday afternoon.

The MoU concerns oil and gas facilities built and operated on non-Indian fee land within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

County Attorney Todd Starr described the MoU as involving the activity within the “outer exterior” of the reservation and called it a “baby step” in improving relations with the tribe.

Commissioner Bob Moomaw agreed with Starr, echoing that it was important to move forward with the MoU and improve the relationship with the tribe.

The MoU states that “the Tribe and the County share a common concern for ensuring that the development of oil and gas facilities is done in a matter that minimizes conflicts between differing land uses and land users.”

To address that concern, the MoU establishes a consultation process to minimize misunderstandings between the tribe, county and affected landowners and determines that the process will take into account Archuleta County Land Use Regulations.

As outlined in the MoU, if the county receives a complaint from an affected land user or the county believes that the development of tribally-owned gas and oil facilities is being done in a manner that conflicts with county oil and gas regulations, the county will notify the tribe.

The option is then opened to the tribe’s oil company, Red Willow Production Company, to conduct an on-site inspection with the county and affected land user.

Following the inspection, the county then has the option to provide a recommendation for modification of the development to ease conflicts with the county’s oil and gas regulations.

The tribe will be able to either accept or reject the recommendation or suggest an alternative to the recommendation, which the county can then respond to.

The MoU also outlines that the tribe will notify the county of new development, at which point the county planner can request an on-site inspection. Modification recommendations can then be made and will follow a similar process to that detailed above.

An alternative to the above processes, which will be done via written communication is an in-person consultation between the entities.

The MoU goes into effect upon approval by the tribal council.

randi@pagosasun.com