For several years now I have followed the reports in local news papers about the rush to tap the natural gas deposits in the Marcellus shale, and I am aware that there are many groups fighting to ensure that the state and other regulatory agencies ensure local communities and the environment are protected. Almost all of the talk and news has been focused on future potential impact but the fact is the impact is already being felt here now and that damage is already being done. I am referring to damage done to the beautiful Shohola Creek watershed by the Columbia Gas and Tennessee Gas Pipeline project. This is the pipeline that is being constructed to bring the natural gas from the Marcellus shale to markets in NJ and NYC. During recent rain events, improperly managed construction materials including huge timbers and mattings used to allow heavy machinery to drive over soft and marshy areas were washed into the Shohola Creek bed downstream of where the Columbia Gas and Tennessee Gas Pipeline project crosses Shohola Creek. The pipeline appears to be completed where it crosses the creek and I think that they did a reasonably good job. There is nothing above ground and the banks are fairly well restored. However, there are still several of these huge timbers downstream of the construction zone and no sign that any effort is being made to recover them. The one in the picture is over 39 ft long, 4 ft wide and 1 ft thick. A reasonable estimate suggests that it weighs about 9600 lbs.
Not only has this polluted an extremely beautiful section of river in what’s considered the Lower Box Canyon of the Shohola, it has created a potentially deadly hazard for sportsman who like to boat this section of river. The section of the Shohola from Shohola Lake through the Upper Box Canyon, which is where the stream passes under route 6, and down to the Lower Box canyon, which is just upstream from where the river passes under Silver Lake Road, is a very popular intermediate to advanced kayaking run. It is frequented year round, but mostly during early spring and late fall when there are no leaves on the tress and the rainfall brings water levels up quickly. The large timber described above is the most concerning because it is essentially impassable by boaters and cannot be seen until it’s too late to avoid. Timbers like this create a significant hazard because they can trap a boat and boater while still allowing the water to flow through. In the boating community this is known as a strainer and is one of the most dangerous features to be encountered on a river. As far as I can tell the work is complete in this area but no effort has been made to clean up this dangerous situation created by the Columbia Gas and Tennessee Gas Pipeline project.
Shohola creek is designated as a AAA waterway due to its cleanliness. It is prime trout fishing stream and also waters the Bald Eagle propagation area on Shohola Lake. Furthermore, and to my immediate point, the Shohola is also a very popular kayaking destination, drawing kayaking enthusiasts from as far away as Vermont, Upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania, South Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. In fact, Pike county PA and neighboring counties in New York provide a regionally unmatched array of kayaking opportunities from flat water paddles on lakes and streams, to mild excitement on the Delaware River, the Lackawaxen River, and the Monguap River. There’s also advanced and expert level whitewater on the many creeks and tributaries of the Delaware. It’s actually well known within the boating community that the Delaware River Valley offers world class whitewater of all levels including legendary runs for skilled athletes who choose to pursue harder and more challenging whitewater. The Shohola is a vital part of this unique natural resource and is a playground used by fisherman, boaters, hikers, birdwatchers, and nature lovers alike. It is an important part of our community and economy. Some years back the Home Depot was unable to build a store at the intersection of RT84 and RT739 in Lords Valley because of fear of runoff from the parking lot polluting this pristine waterway. Now the stream has been damaged, and a potentially deadly hazard has been the result. So far nothing is being done to rectify the situation. While so many are concerned about future impact of drilling in the Delaware River Basin, we need to realize that the areas resources and water are already impacted even before the first well has been drilled. This is already having an economic impact because word of this hazard has been spreading on kayaking message boards across the internet including, NJNYWW (NY and NJ Whitewater group on Yahoo), PACreekers (another whitewater related yahoo group), the NPMB (New England Paddlers Message Board), KCCNY.Org (Kayak and Canoe Club of NY), and the AMC(Appalachian Mountain Club) etc. The result of this negative publicity is that paddlers are avoiding the area and deciding to travel to other destinations instead. Whitewater paddlers may not be a very visible group because they often converge on a river during rainstorms or during cold and inclement weather when other outdoor enthusiasts choose to stay home. Paddlers, however, buy gas, eat at our restaurants, shop at our convenience stores, and stay at our campsites; often at times when these businesses have fewer customers due to rain.
I recently read that the Pike County Commissioners were discussing the impact on tourism of all the press coverage related to the drilling of the Marcellus shale and were planning on taking steps to try and overcome the negative perception that is developing about the region even before the first well has been dug. The fact is our community is under threat. The impact is visible, real, and dangerous. We need to work as a community to hold those responsible accountable. Please let you state and local representives know of your concerns and insist that this situation be rectified. You can let Tennessee Gas Pipeline company know of your concerns as well.
Contact info for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline company can be found here. Please ask them to clean this up?
Principal, Media Relations
PA Fish and Boat should be asked to participate in requesting that this impact be rectified:
5566 Main Road
Sweet Valley, PA 18656
Telephone: (570) 477-5717
For more information about Marcellus shale gas extraction in PA: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/440/game-changer
Slide show of lower Shohola