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Ohio Utica Shale

Watershed district seeking natural gas leases at Piedmont Lake

By Bob Downing Published: January 8, 2014

From the Muskigum Watershed Conservancy District late Tueday:

An open house meeting to offer attendees an opportunity to provide input about the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s (MWCD) plans to begin negotiating a lease on public property that it owns at Piedmont Lake in Belmont, Guernsey and Harrison counties for Utica Shale development will be held Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. in the James Carnes Center near St. Clairsville.


MWCD staff members will provide details about the conservancy district’s leasing history and recent leases at three other reservoirs for Utica Shale development, as well as to discuss plans for leasing at Piedmont Lake, collect input and answer questions.


The James Carnes Center is located at 45300 Roscoe Rd., St. Clairsville, near the Belmont County Fairgrounds and off Exit 213 of I-70. Comments and input also can be sent directly to the MWCD via e-mail at


The MWCD manages more than 6,600 acres of property at Piedmont Lake, and most of it is not under lease for Utica Shale development. Overall, the MWCD owns 54,000 acres of public property at numerous reservoir regions in Eastern Ohio, which has been the focus of natural gas development in the Utica Shale over the past couple of years.


The MWCD has been contacted repeatedly in recent months by oil and gas development companies seeking to negotiate with the MWCD for the rights to access the Utica Shale in the Piedmont Lake region. At this time, the MWCD is preparing to begin these negotiations and it is the intent of the MWCD to restrict oil and gas development to those areas that will minimize the impact on the lake community and normal recreational enjoyment of the lake region, up to and including the possible prohibition of well pads and production lines on MWCD property, commonly referred to as “non-development leases.”


The MWCD previously has agreed to leases for property it owns at three other lake regions: Clendening Lake in Harrison County in 2011, Leesville Lake in Carroll County in 2012 and Seneca Lake in Guernsey and Noble counties in 2013. The Leesville Lake and Seneca Lake leases are non-development leases and the Clendening Lake lease restricts the number and location of drilling sites on MWCD-owned property.


The MWCD has managed oil and gas drilling leases on its properties for its entire 80-plus-year history and its lease routinely has been recognized for the environmental protections built into it and for its overall protections for public property. The MWCD also has an interest in approximately 275 older, traditional wells that produce royalty revenues.


MWCD officials have pledged to conduct negotiations for the Utica Shale leases it agrees to in a manner that is as transparent as possible, including making an announcement prior to beginning negotiations for any large reservoir area and offering those who are interested with an opportunity to provide input directly to the MWCD staff and Board of Directors. The MWCD also will post any lease that is agreed to for a large reservoir area on the MWCD website for a few weeks prior to any recommended approval by the MWCD Board of Directors.


The revenues generated from the signing bonuses agreed to in the leases have enabled the MWCD to pay down its debt and to plan for and begin making upgrades to its public recreational facilities.


The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving an estimated $10.7 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).


For more information about the MWCD, visit www.mwcd.organd follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.


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Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

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Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

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Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.