MWCD halts sales of water pending further study, updated policy
There will be no further sales of water from the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) reservoirs to the oil and gas industry until the MWCD can update its water supply policy that will take into account the information reported from an independent water availability study presently under way.
The MWCD announced today (June 7) that based on concerns expressed by environmental organizations and groups, the general public and the MWCD staff, the conservancy district must “slow down the process of managing water sales requests,” said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary.
Earlier this year, the MWCD Board of Directors approved an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey to perform a water availability study for three MWCD reservoirs: Atwood, Clendening and Leesville reservoirs. The MWCD hopes to have data from those studies later this year.
“We believe strongly that it is in the best interest of the public we serve and the conservancy district to not entertain any water supply requests until this study has been completed and the MWCD has had an opportunity to update its water supply policy for review, public discussion and consideration of the MWCD Board of Directors,” Hoopingarner said. “We want to fully understand the concerns of interested groups and the public, and ensure that each step in the process is transparent and open for public review.”
The MWCD Board has approved one water supply agreement for 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake in Harrison County to be sold to Gulfport Energy Co. A temporary pipeline is being used to draw water from the lake for drilling operations at a Gulfport well site nearby. Approximately a dozen other inquiries have been received by the MWCD for water sales from several other MWCD reservoirs, but none of those will be considered until after further studies and the updated MWCD policy are completed, Hoopingarner said.
The MWCD has legal authority according to state law to sell water from its reservoirs and the use of water for beneficial public uses including consumptive, domestic and industrial uses was one of the two primary purposes cited for the organization of the MWCD in 1933. The other primary purpose was to reduce the effects of flooding in the Muskingum River Watershed and the eventual construction of the 16 reservoirs and dams allows for the effective management of those two objectives, Hoopingarner said.
Currently, along with the capped sales agreement for water at Clendening Reservoir, three other long-term contracts for water supply from MWCD reservoirs are in place. They are with the Village of Cadiz in Harrison County for water from Tappan Lake for the village’s municipal water supply, with the City of Cambridge in Guernsey County for an emergency backup supply of water from Seneca Lake for its municipal supply (which has been in place for many years and has not ever involved water withdrawals), and with Carroll County for water from Atwood Lake for the county’s operation of Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center.
“We also want to stress that our mission is clear that the MWCD must review and address water supply requests that are presented to the conservancy district,” Hoopingarner said. “However, given the current and future conditions that exist related to the oil and gas industry in the Muskingum River Watershed, we are taking these very deliberate steps to ensure that we have complete and accurate information, along with input from key stakeholders and the public, to make informed and effective decisions in the future.”
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 $10.4 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.org and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.
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