The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District intends to sell water from two reservoirs in eastern Ohio to natural gas drillers, despite an earlier plan to halt sales until a water availability study can be completed.
The district said it will sell water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County and Piedmont Lake, mostly in Belmont County, during the fall drawdown when lakes are lowered for the winter.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that manages the dams typically lowers each of the lakes by several feet in the fall to allow the lakes to refill over the winter with rain and snow melt.
The district’s governing board approved the possible sales from the two lakes at a meeting on Friday. The district announced the plan on Monday..
The district said water requests from drillers near Clendening and Piedmont “have increased sharply” in recent weeks.
Any water sales from the two lakes would reduce the wear and tear on local roads from tankers hauling water to new wells to be hydraulically fractured or fracked, the district said in announcing the proposed sales.
The proposed sales will save taxpayers money by reducing the damage to township and county roads from thousands of loaded water tankers, the district said in announcing the planned water sales.
Earlier this month, the Ohio Township Association’s board of directors had endorsed such water sales to drillers from winter drawdowns.
Any sales must be negotiated as to volume of water and the price, officials said.
The possibility of contracts for short-term water sales came from drillers who told the district that they intend to soon begin new drilling and are in need of water.
If the district won’t sell them the water, the drillers said they will be forced to use tankers to provide the needed water, officials said.
“At drawdown, billions of gallons of water are released from the lakes, making this the optimum time to supply excess from the lakes to the oil and gas industry without any negative impacts on recreational activities of these two lakes including boating,” said Sean Logan, the district’s chief of conservation, in a statement.
An estimated 6 billion gallons of water from the two reservoirs would have been released this fall under normal operations, the district said.
Each well that is fracked typically takes 5 million to 10 million gallons of water.
Said Logan, “We do not need a study to verify that excess water is being released from the lakes during the drawdown period, which occurs each fall and winter,”
Earlier in the year, the district based in New Philadelphia had approved the sale of up to 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake to Gulfport Energy Co.
The district in June announced that it was suspending the sale of water to oil and gas companies pending the completion of a water availability study by the U.S. Geological Survey at three reservoirs: Atwood, Clendening and Leesville. Those studies have not yet been completed. They are likely to be done in December.
A very vocal grass-roots group led the push to stop the water sales to drillers.
The district has also approved a new water availability study at Seneca Lake.
That study will be done by CH2M Hill Engineering, based in Colorado with offices in Columbus.
The district currently has three long-term contracts for water sales: with Cadiz for water from Tappan Lake, with Cambridge for backup drinking water from Seneca Lake and with Carroll County for water from Atwood Lake for Atwood Lake Resort.
The district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees 16 reservoirs and dams in eastern Ohio to control flooding.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.