Board OKs funds for Beaver Creek tests

LISBON – A $2,500 donation from Columbiana County commissioners will help a volunteer group with plans to protect the Little Beaver Creek from being overused as a water source by drilling companies.

Commissioners agreed at their meeting on Wednesday to donate $2,500, which will be used by the group Save Beaver Creek State Park to purchase monitoring equipment to measure water flow and water quality.

“We think it’s a worthwhile expenditure,” said Commission Chairman Mike Halleck, who indicated the money would come from the county’s share of state casino tax money.

Also donating money toward the purchase were the county Federation of Conservation Clubs ($450) and the Calcutta Rotary Club ($714).

The $2,500 is actually going to the county park district because commissioners were reluctant to donate the money outright to a volunteer organization. The park district is expected to work with the organization to purchase the monitoring equipment.

Tom Butch, who is a member of both the park district board and Save Beaver Creek State Park, asked commissioners for help purchasing the monitoring equipment because of concern about the potential impact water withdrawals for drilling operations in the area might have on the Little Beaver Creek (LBC) system.

“There has been stream monitoring before, but never any monitoring of water levels,” he said.

Chesapeake Energy is the only applicant to have obtained a state permit to withdraw water from four locations along the LBC, although the company stated it has no current plans to do so.

The group is interested in limiting the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the LBC rather than an outright ban prohibiting Chesapeake or other drilling companies from using it as a water source for fracking, which is the drilling process used to free up oil and natural gas trapped in shale formations deep underground. Fracking can take up to five million gallons of water.

Butch said the purpose of the monitoring stations would be to establish a benchmark for stream flow as well as acidity, total dissolved solids and dissolved oxygen and then continue to monitor those conditions. Once these parameters are established, the group hopes to work with drilling companies to limit water withdrawals from the LBC during low-flow periods.

While the park district is expected to give its approval for the joint venture, Butch said the volunteer group will be responsible for maintaining the monitoring stations and downloading the data.

Jim Kerr, the unofficial leader of the volunteer group, said the monitoring stations costs a combined $1,300 each, and the donations will enable them to purchase two. Their goal is to purchase three so a monitoring station can be placed on the north, west and main forks of the LBC.

“We’re not opposed to taking water out of the system. We just don’t want it to be too much to where it will have a detrimental impact,” he said.

Butch said they also questioned commissioners about their recent decision to allow Chesapeake to withdraw water from Cold Run Creek, a shallow stream that runs through the county farm property in Center Township.

“We pointed out that it is a small stream that can easily dry up,” he said, adding Cold Run Creek is a tributary of the West Fork of the LBC.

Halleck said he told them the new county sewage treatment plant being built in the area will replenish Cold Run Creek by discharging up to 30,000 gallons per day of treated wastewater into the stream.