Jamie Stover of WBOY, Clarksburg, WV, wrote the following article after visiting the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area, located in southcentral Wetzel County, WV.
The Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area is home to a variety of trees and wildlife. It’s also home to several active well sites.
The land is state-owned, but the minerals are not. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas said 240 wells are on that property, some of which are Marcellus Shale wells. It said more are in the works too, as there are currently permit applications for additional Marcellus wells on file.
“It’s a very active drilling area because the state for the most part does not own any of its mineral rights here,” said Bill Hughes, a nearby resident and frequent visitor to the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area.
Aside from being on state-owned property, one of the well pads has two horizontal wells that are placed right on top of county route 82. “It’s also called Buffalo Run Road or County Road 82. And prior to this well pad being placed it was 10-15 feet below here,” Hughes said.
Bill Hughes enjoys the numerous trails and scenic routes on the public grounds. But in his travels, he’s seen evidence of the industry that concerns him. “Land use, loss of timber. Loss of access, the overall noise and disturbance and disruption of wildlife,” Hughes said.
The DEP issued violations for some of those wells already in place.
As a West Virginia tax payer, Hughes said the land is partly his and could have been grounds for baseline testing. “Could have been showcase examples of how Marcellus drilling and exploration can be done in a way that it’s environmentally sensitive and using the best known methods for doing so,” Hughes said.
He said the industry could have benefited more too. “The companies could have used that in some of their advertising. Here in a wildlife management area, here is what we did. This is what it looks like. And this is how we’re learning to co-exist in an environment that’s supposed to be supporting wildlife,” Hughes said.
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said it does not have jurisdiction to regulate those well sites. It said seven oil and gas related companies are currently working on the wildlife management area.