Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area Hit by Drilling & Fracking Activities

Public News Service – WV
29 May 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – People living near a state wildlife preserve are complaining that it is being torn up by natural gas drilling & fracking operations.

The state of West Virginia does not own the mineral rights for the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area, which is in Wetzel county.

Therefore, like a private landowner, the state has limited ability to control activities by the three drilling companies operating on 12 large well-pads located in the game and hiking preserve.

Longtime Wetzel County resident Bill Hughes says he has repeatedly complained about problems, including runaway erosion and heavy truck traffic. “It’s a total embarrassment to the state to have these things in their own back yard. Every resident, every taxpayer in the state of West Virginia owns part of Lewis Wetzel. I want my land taken care of better than this.”

State officials say they have the sites under investigation, and inspectors are due there next week. Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco says her office is treating the complaints the same way they would on any private land. Overall, she says, state regulators have been slowed by the need to hire more inspectors and put a new law signed late last year into effect.

“We’ve had to play catch-up. Industry and the market changed things quickly, and so quite frankly what you find is the regulation side is playing catch-up to the industry.”

Hughes says one problem is the level of commotion, the traffic and industrial activity, in what should be quiet wilderness.  “Dirt, noise, diesel fumes, disturbances. I’m sure the deer are having a hard time finding a place that’s a little bit of peace and quiet for them.”

He says one of the big well pads, with a number of individual drilling rigs on it, has been plagued by massive erosion that has filled a nearby creek with mud. “Tree roots and the trees just slipped on down the hill, and rainfall over the past month or two has cut another channel because the old existing creek bed is buried — there’s probably four or five foot of mud.”

The drilling companies did not return calls requesting comment.