SHort-term water supply policy approved for MWCD lakes

May 17, 2013

A policy containing upgraded guidelines for the short-term sales of water from the lakes of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) that includes provisions for supplies for the oil and gas industry has been approved and will go into effect immediately.

 

Members of the MWCD Board of Directors approved the “Short-Term Water Supply” policy that also limits sales of water for the oil and gas industry to firms that are working in areas near individual MWCD lakes during a meeting today (Friday, May 17) at New Philadelphia. The policy also states that public drinking water supplies remain the priority for withdrawals from the MWCD lakes and that supplying the oil and gas industry must be balanced among the many other multiple benefits of the lakes, including recreation, flood-storage capacity and ensuring acceptable downstream flows.

 

“It has never been the intent nor the goal of the MWCD that its surface-water lakes serve as the sole or a primary source of water for the entire oil and gas industry in Eastern Ohio,” said Sean D. Logan, MWCD’s chief of conservation. “This policy provides very straight-forward guidelines for how requests for sales of water for oil and gas production will be managed by the MWCD.”

 

The 10 permanent MWCD lakes (Atwood, Beach City, Charles Mill, Clendening, Leesville, Piedmont, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, Tappan and Wills Creek lakes) were constructed in the 1930s as part of the flood-reduction system of reservoirs and dams in the Muskingum River Watershed, and for conservation of water for public benefit. Through the years, short-term sales of water from the MWCD lakes – which are legal and authorized through provisions of the Ohio Revised Code – have occurred for multiple uses, ranging from assistance for local farmers during drought conditions, serving as locations for “dry” fire hydrants for fire departments, public drinking water supply and for construction projects. Guidelines developed by the conservancy district to manage these sales and requests periodically have been updated, too, including most recently in 2010.

 

To date, there have been five individual agreements for sales of water to the oil and gas industry approved by the MWCD Board of Directors for water from Clendening, Piedmont and Seneca lakes. Two of the sales from Clendening Lake in Harrison County have been completed, and a third at that lake recently began operations.

 

The Short-Term Water Supply policy covers two categories of sales, one for construction and other small withdrawals, and the other for the oil and gas industry. The construction category provides for a specific fee structure, while the category for “mineral production and other large consumptive uses” sets fees at market or near-market rate, along with refundable and non-refundable security deposits. The MWCD previously announced that a special fund has been created for proceeds from the sale of water to the oil and gas industry and those revenues will be used for water-quality improvement projects in the region.

 

Logan said supplying water from the MWCD lakes for oil and gas development near the reservoirs also serves as a way to reduce tens of thousands of potential tanker truck trips across township roads that are not designed to hold up to the constant pounding. The agreements approved by the MWCD for water sales at Clendening Lake eliminated an estimated 14,000 one-way tanker truck trips because of the temporary pipeline system utilized from the lake to the well site, Logan said. Letters of support have been received by the MWCD from both The Nature Conservancy and the Ohio Township Association for water sales from the MWCD lakes to the oil and gas industry for operations around the lakes as a method to reduce tanker truck traffic and road damage.

 

“This has been an evolving process and the industry’s increasing work in Eastern Ohio and near the MWCD lakes makes it a natural that they will look toward the lakes as a source of water for the hydraulic fracturing process in the Utica Shale development,” Logan said. “But it is very important for the MWCD to protect the reservoirs and protect the water in the lakes through documented conservation practices that also balance the benefits they create.”

 

According to the policy, buyers of water from the MWCD lakes for use in the oil and gas industry also must agree that the MWCD has complete authority to suspend or terminate the supply agreements for any purpose.

 

Other terms and conditions that will be included in agreements for short-term water sales to the oil and gas industry include:

 

- No withdrawals of water can occur during the months of February, March and April unless waived by the MWCD

 

- Withdrawals can occur during the specific periods of the months of May, June and July; the months of August, September and October; and the months of November, December and January

 

- Each of the specified periods results in a new agreement that must be developed, with subsequent renewal agreements for the next period not needing specific approval by the Board of Directors.

 

- Agreements for renewals beyond 12 consecutive months must be approved by the Board of Directors.

 

The MWCD also will approve of potential sites where water will be withdrawn from the lakes, and consult with other agencies and partners, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), as necessary, the policy states.

 

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 more than $10 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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