Environmental groups are evaluating their options for a potential appeal of a Bureau of Land Management decision last week to allow up to 60 new natural gas wells near the Goblin City area of the White River.

The BLM says that the project will be done in a way to minimize the impact to the scenery of the area, which is a popular river-running destination in the Uintah Basin.

Enduring Resources will drill as many as 60 wells from 17 well pads, comprising about 2 acres each, said Stephanie Howard, National Environmental Policy Act coordinator for the BLM's Vernal field office.

Enduring Resources has taken steps to minimize the environmental impact, such as using a computer simulation to choose locations for the well pads that aren't visible from the river, Howard said. The company, which will need water for drilling, has also proposed a facility "hidden out of the way" to pump from the river to eliminate the need to send water trucks to the river, she said.

But a joint press release by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society says the BLM isn't going far enough to eliminate the impact for those wanting to enjoy the river's scenic value, which has been virtually untouched since explorer John Wesley Powell visited in 1871.

Even if visitors to the area don't see the wells, they'll be exposed to the noise of around-the-clock drilling in an area for four to six years, said Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for SUWA.

"(Visitors) are still experiencing a natural environment, not at all dissimilar from what John Wesley Powell had," Bloch said. "This is going to destroy that."

The BLM received more than 56,000 public comments opposed to the project from across the country, Howard said, along with 200 to 300 comments supporting the project from within the Uintah Basin. Howard described the public comment period as a disclosure process to "to find out where our analysis was flawed or missing so we could get our analysis complete."

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com