MWCD negotiates Piedmont oil, gas lease that minimizes impacts

March 21, 2014

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is completing negotiations for an oil and gas lease for Utica Shale development for nearly 6,700 acres of its property at Piedmont Lake in Belmont and Harrison counties that will minimize negative impacts on normal recreational activities at the lake and on surrounding land through additional protections included in the agreement.

The lease agreement between the MWCD and Antero Resources of Colorado was presented to the MWCD Board of Directors for review during a meeting today (March 21), with an expected recommendation for the Board to approve the lease no earlier than at its next regularly scheduled meeting on April 18.

As part of its pledge to provide for public input and transparency into oil and gas leasing of MWCD properties, the lease document can be found on the MWCD website (/flood-reduction-and-conservation-stewardship/conservation/piedmont-reservoir-lease) and public comments about it will be accepted by the MWCD prior to the April 18 meeting of the Board of Directors. Comments can be sent through e-mail at piedmontcomments@mwcd.org, by fax at (330) 364-4161 and through regular mail to Piedmont Comments, P.O. Box 349, New Philadelphia, OH 44663.

The lease for MWCD property at Piedmont Lake contains numerous environmental protections that automatically can be extended by Antero to adjacent private property if their owners agree to them, said Theodore R. Lozier, MWCD’s chief of conservation.

“This lease for MWCD property at Piedmont Lake continues the MWCD’s commitment in all of the leases it has negotiated through its history to place a premium on environmental safeguards and to ensure that recreational use of the reservoir is not negatively impacted,” Lozier said. “We also are very pleased with the thoughtful suggestions that we have received from members of the public and users of Piedmont Lake, and we have incorporated much of that input into this lease.”

Some of the protections negotiated into the lease include the following, Lozier said:

  • An opportunity for the MWCD to review and approve erosion control and construction plans
  • Surface operation requirements including specifications on drilling operations and reclamation
  • Light and sound controls as well as seasonal restrictions on drilling to reduce the impact on the community

The MWCD anticipates up to two well pads could be located on MWCD property as part of the lease, Lozier said, adding that any well pads would have to be approved by the MWCD and will be in areas of minimal development and recreational activity. Other well pads will be located outside of MWCD property.

Financial terms of the lease still are being negotiated, Lozier said.

The MWCD staff will review comments and suggestions from the public and interested lake visitors and users prior to the April 18 meeting of the Board of Directors, Lozier said, adding that all comments also will be shared with Board members.

“This deliberate process that the MWCD has committed to follow is very important for full and complete public disclosure and transparency into the development of the conservancy district’s property for oil and gas leasing,” Lozier said.

The MWCD followed the same public input process prior to leasing MWCD-owned property at Seneca Lake in Guernsey and Noble counties in 2013, also to Antero Resources. The public meeting and public review and comment period are not required by law. The MWCD previously signed leases for Utica Shale development of its property in 2011 with Gulfport Energy Co. at Clendening Lake in Harrison County, and for non-development leases in 2012 with Chesapeake Energy Co. at Leesville Lake in Carroll County and in 2013 at Seneca.

The MWCD has managed oil and gas leases on its properties for its entire 80-year history as part of its overall natural resources stewardship program. There are approximately 275 traditional (Clinton development) wells that the MWCD receives royalties from, Lozier said.

The MWCD Board also has directed that the funds the conservancy district receives from signing bonuses from Utica Shale leases should be used to defray its debt, to improve public access at its properties and to address deferred maintenance and upgrades at its recreational facilities. Board members also have directed the MWCD staff to review the annual assessment of property owners paid to the MWCD for consideration of any adjustments in the amount collected based on royalties received by the conservancy district.

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.org and follow the MWCD on Facebook and Twitter.

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