Watershed negotiates non-development oil, gas lease for Seneca Lake property

Special to The Jeffersonian Published:

NEW PHILADELPHIA — The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has negotiated an oil and gas lease for 6,700 acres of its property at Seneca Lake in Guernsey and Noble counties that will prohibit any surface development on MWCD property and add protections to adjacent private properties.

The lease agreement between the MWCD and Antero Resources of Colorado was presented to the MWCD Board of Directors for review during a meeting Friday, Jan. 18, with an expected recommendation for the Board to approve the lease at the Board’s meeting in February.

The lease contains a number of environmental protections for the MWCD property at Seneca Lake that includes additional protections for property owners adjacent to the MWCD-owned property, said Sean D. Logan, MWCD’s chief of conservation.

“The MWCD has always negotiates basic protections into the leases it enters into,” Logan said. “This lease builds upon those, utilizing the concerns and comments that were provided to our staff and Board of Directors from the public. We are pleased that we received very serious, very thoughtful suggestions and guidance from the public that shares our concerns in this process.”

Under the lease terms, there will be no well pads, lease roads or pipelines on MWCD property, and surface operations on adjacent lands where the MWCD shares in the well or lands also leased by Antero and located within a half-mile of MWCD property also will be subject to the terms of the lease, said Mark Swiger, MWCD’s natural resources administrator who has negotiated and managed MWCD leases for more than 35 years.

Other protections of the reservoir area included in the lease, according to Swiger, include:

• The MWCD will have an opportunity to view Antero’s well development plans annually.

• The MWCD will have the right to review the location of all well pads, associated roadways and pipelines.

• The MWCD will review all erosion and sedimentation plans, safety plans and engineering site plans prior to any construction.

• The MWCD will have access to the construction site prior to work commencing and during the drilling and completion phases.

• The lease also will include light and sound control to reduce the impact to the immediate lake community.

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

The lease document also can be found on the MWCD website (www.mwcd.org/conservation) and public comments will be accepted by the MWCD by sending an email message to senecacomments@mwcd.org, by fax at 330-64-4161 or by regular mail to, Seneca Comments, MWCD, P.O. Box 349, New Philadelphia, OH 44663.

The MWCD staff plans to recommend to the Board of Directors to enter into the lease with Antero at the Board’s Feb. 15 meeting, and will review comments and suggestions received prior to that meeting for any potential lease changes and upgrades, said Logan, MWCD’s chief of conservation.

“The MWCD is pleased to provide this deliberate process in order to demonstrate the environmental concerns built into the lease and to allow interested citizens with an opportunity to review the lease and offer their own comments and suggestions,” Logan said. “For 80 years the MWCD has been negotiating and managing leases for oil and gas development on the MWCD properties, and the MWCD lease has been used by public and private landowners as a model.”

The MWCD pledged in 2012 after meeting with a group of interested residents and groups that it would enhance opportunities for public input and transparency into the process of oil and gas leasing of MWCD property as part of the interest in the Utica shale region in Eastern Ohio. MWCD officials held a public meeting last October in the Village of Senecaville in which they announced that lease negotiations would begin and invited comment during and following the meeting, and pledged that any lease developed for recommendation to the Board of Directors first would be available for a period of public review and comment prior to any action by the Board.

The public meeting and public review and comment period are not required by law, and input previously received by the MWCD following the public meeting were incorporated into the proposed lease agreement with Antero, Logan said.

The MWCD previously signed leases related to the Utica shale development in 2011 with Gulfport Energy Co. for MWCD-owned property at Clendening Lake in Harrison County and a similar non-development lease in 2012 with Chesapeake Energy Co. for MWCD-owned property at Leesville Lake in Carroll County.

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

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.

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

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