PIEDMONT, Ohio - Members of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District may allow Denver-based Antero Resources to drill for Utica Shale natural gas on nearly 6,700 acres of Piedmont Lake property in Belmont and Harrison counties as early as Friday.
"Financial terms still are being negotiated. According to our staff, there will be a maximum of two well pads that will be located on district property," spokesman Darrin Lautenschleger said Monday, adding that the district's board of directors will consider Antero's proposal during the regular meeting set for Friday in New Philadelphia.
Thousands of ambitious fishermen hoping to hook a catfish, walleye, bass or muskie - along with children participating in 4-H and school-related activities - head to Piedmont Lake every year. The vast majority of the lake itself lies in northwestern Belmont County, while it stretches into southern Harrison County and the extreme northeastern corner of Guernsey County.
Along with Piedmont, the district manages several large eastern Ohio lakes, including Tappan, Clendening and Seneca lakes.
"This lease for Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District 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," said Theodore R. Lozier, the district's chief of conservation.
According to the district, some of the environmental protections featured in the lease include:
District leaders said they followed the same public input process prior to leasing Seneca Lake property in Guernsey and Noble counties in 2013, also to Antero. During a January public hearing, district officials said up to $19 million from the lease signing could be used to improve the Piedmont Lake Marina.
Antero is already drilling several successful wells in western Belmont and Monroe counties, while the company has signed deals with the village of Barnesville, the Barnesville Exempted Village School District and numerous individual property owners for drilling in the village.
District officials previously signed leases for Utica Shale development of its property in 2011 with Gulfport at Clendening Lake in Harrison County, and for non-development leases in 2012 with Chesapeake Energy at Leesville Lake in Carroll County.
To view the proposed drilling contract, go to www.mwcd.org. Comments regarding the deal can be sent through e-mail at piedmontcomments@ mwcd.org, or through regular mail to Piedmont Comments, P.O. Box 349, New Philadelphia, OH 44663.