If the recent upswing in the development of Ohio’s oil and natural gas fields should make its way to Wood County, the county commissioners want to make sure the areas rural roads will be maintained in the event of heavier than normal traffic.
The commissioners are mailing copies of a letter they received from the state’s departments of transportation and natural resources to local officials that outlines a suggested agreement covering road use and maintenance issues where horizontal drilling projects may affect the infrastructure.
“Ohio is experiencing significant new development in areas thought to be rich in oil and gas, and this development will create thousands of new jobs. As we have seen, and as we have learned from other states experiencing similar activity, many rural roads used by the industry to move heavy equipment to-and-from well sites were not built to handle the volume or type of traffic they will soon experience. Maintaining roads is a priority, as is making sure the companies causing the wear and tear meet their responsibilities,” the letter says.
It is signed by Jerry Wray, director of the transportation department, and James Zehringer, director of the natural resources department.
With a few exceptions, the model Roadway Use and Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) requires a drilling company to post a bond to cover costs of any damage caused by drilling activity on routes used by the company.
It also requires for the company to pay for any additional road signs if the authorities deem them necessary. The company also assumes liability for subcontractors it hires.
In addition, portions of roads used by a drilling company are to be upgraded to sustain the anticipated drilling activity under a mutual agreement between the county engineer and an engineer of the drilling company.
The letters says changes are being made to the ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas permit that links RUMA to the permit application.
“While it will not be an absolute requirement, there will be specific requirements to ensure road impacts are discussed prior to any permit being issued,” the letter says.
Melanie Bowen, a Lake Township trustee, read a copy of the letter during Tuesday’s meeting of the board of trustees and noted Wood County once had a history of oil and gas development.
More recently, however, the eastern half of the state has drawn the attention of the oil and gas industry.
The Ohio portion of the Utica shale formation stretches from the middle of the state eastward to the borders with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Marcellus formation in Ohio, which lies about 7,000 to 9,000 feet underground, sits along the border with Pennsylvania.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, three wells were plugged in Wood County last year.
Knox County led all other Ohio counties in 2011 with 43 wells drilled. The average depth was 3,139 feet.