Trent Dougherty, Director of Legal Affairs Ohio Environmental Council
The Grand River is the jewel of the Lake Erie Basin. The Heart of Steelhead Alley. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Grand River represents one of the finest examples of a natural stream found anywhere in Ohio. It is designated a wild and scenic river and is an angler’s paradise—with some 90,000 steelhead trout stocked each year, and boasts “the most aquatic diversity of any Ohio Lake Erie tributary.”
In 1974, the Grand River became Ohio’s second wild and scenic river. Now, it is the focal point of fracking in Ohio.
Not only has horizontal drilling inundated the Grand Watershed, but the watershed has also become a destination for contaminated fracking wastewater from other states.
So far, two permits for production wells have been issued less than 1,500 feet from a Grand River tributary, and approximately 12 permits for fracking wastewater disposal wells have been approved in the basin.
Just 1500 feet from the headwaters the Grand River, in Geauga County, Ohio, is one of two the first horizontal hydraulic fracturing well to be drilled in Geauga County. This is the first of untold numbers of wells that will engulf the Grand River which already is home to a dozen fracking waste injection wells, and this watershed (and watersheds around Ohio) needs the best protections possible.
With such colossal-scale drilling, it is imperative that we take a collective breath and make certain that regulations truly protect our gas-field communities. Unfortunately, that is not the current state of the law.
When balancing the potential for impacts to a watershed such as that of the Grand River with the realities of today’s economic climate, we must understand that the our watersheds are fragile and complex systems, NO amount of profit can fully restore such natural systems if we do not adequately protect them.
This week, the Ohio House of Representatives voted to pass SB315 that makes some movement toward properly regulating this industry. The good provisions of the bill, however, will struggle to buffer the toxic loopholes, lapses and left-outs that the oil and gas industry has succeeded in elbowing into the bill. What’s missing?
- There are no rules requiring recycling fracking water to protect the Grand River Watershed from being sucked dry, or limiting the need to drill more disposal wells in the watershed.
- No requirements for post drilling/ post fracking testing of private water wells to secure the quality of landowners’ water; and
- No testing of what, exactly, is being disposed of in the fracking waste injection wells.
Ohio is outdriving its headlights when it comes to the shale boom, and watersheds missed a “Grand” opportunity with SB315 to really get our water protections in place. Natural Gas can be a bridge fuel to cleaner and greener sources of energy, but the pace we are going, Ohio is building a bridge to nowhere.
Now in its 27th year, the annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.