Fracking’ threatens wild and scenic Hoback River
March 30, 2009 was a glorious day for Wyoming river advocates. That’s the day President Obama signed into law a massive public lands bill that granted federal Wild and Scenic designation to 13 rivers and 400 river miles in Wyoming’s Snake River watershed. Among those rivers is the Hoback, a favorite of local anglers and paddlers that flows off the Wyoming Range and joins the Snake River south of Jackson.
To say the Hoback River is wild or scenic doesn’t do it justice. It is arrestingly beautiful.
If you look at the map of the Snake watershed, you’ll notice something peculiar about the Hoback – only its lower ten miles are designated as Wild and Scenic. That’s because its upper reaches are located in Sublette County, where oil and gas drilling reins supreme. When the entire Hoback River was proposed for Wild and Scenic designation in 2007, the Sublette County Commissioners demanded that “their” section of the river be spared from formal protection. After all, that might thwart energy companies’ plans for its headwaters.
Now we know what those plans are.
At a meeting in Jackson earlier this week, the Bridger-Teton National Forest hosted a public meeting to gather feedback on the proposal by Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) to drill 136 gas wells in the Noble Basin at the headwaters of the Hoback River. The company plans to employ hydraulic fracturing to get at the gas. “Fracking” involves injecting a toxic stream of water, sand, and assorted chemicals into an underground rock formation in order to break up the surrounding rock and release the gas. It has been blamed for contaminating groundwater supplies across the country. Thanks to an industry-friendly energy bill that Congress passed in 2005, fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
To say that local residents oppose drilling in the Hoback headwaters would be a huge understatement. Of the 250 citizens who attended the public meeting in Jackson, only one spoke out in favor of it. Everyone else in the room was outraged that the Forest Service might sign off on the proposal, and fearful that one of their favorite places to fish and hunt could well be destroyed.
American Rivers is following this issue closely and is committed to upholding the wild and scenic values of the Hoback River. In the meantime, the Bridger-Teton National Forest is taking public comment on the PXP drilling proposal until March 10. Send your written comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin MDP DEIS.” The plan is available on the web at: www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/projects/.