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Sugar Run Targeted by Gas Drillers for Tapping River Water

What's two more million gallons a day out of the Susquehanna River?

That's what property owners in the Village of Sugar Run would like to know, having been informed that's how much will be pumped out of there if a recent application is approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC). The withdrawal location would be near the mouth of the Sugar Run Creek itself and accessible from the vicinity of the intersection of Route 187 and Quicks Bend Road (Route 2002) as described in the application for withdrawal by Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC.

There is no reason to believe this will be turned down, because two other withdrawal points have already been approved and are active within two miles upstream. One is just off the Rainbow Bridge in Terry Township, on Welles property, where Talisman Energy is removing about two million gallons a day (mgd) based on a peak 30-day average. The other is a little downstream and across the river from that on McCarty land at 1.44 mgd as an average. That, too, is a Chesapeake project.

With the approval of withdrawing water from the river in Sugar Run, that would mean 5.44 million gallons a day under peak conditions in fewer than two miles of the river, though in three different townships—Terry, Wilmot and Wyalusing.

Dave Buck's property and business, Endless Mountain Outfitters, are adjacent to the proposed site and the water would be withdrawn just downstream where kayakers and canoeists launch and arrive at his property.

People like to paddle around and do some swimming there in the summer, Buck said this week, and I was told that the water intake there would be no threat to anyone.

He was told that by a representative of Borton-Lawson Engineering, the firm that sent letters, dated March 16, to Buck and other nearby property owners in the Wilmot Township community. This notification was on behalf of Chesapeake Appalachia and required by the SRBC when there is an application of withdrawal for consumptive water use of more than 20,000 gallons a day. This is, of course, more than 100 times that amount and the specific request is for up to 2,016,000 a day. That's 84,000 gallons an hour, and if you want to break it down further, 1,400 gallons a minute.

Looking at the application submitted to the SRBC, which is pending for approval, this withdrawal would barely put a dent into the volume of the so-called low flow on the river along that point estimated at 422.64 million gallons per minute. The average daily flow of the river there is given at 4,820,000 gallons per minute. The impact on the latter volume by withdrawing 1,400 gallons a minute is barely three hundredths of a percent.

Buck said that he hopes to meat soon with Chesapeake representatives and more information should be forthcoming then. There is actually an island at that location, which creates a fairly narrow channel along that side of the river.

An email alert about this proposal is already circulating, with much concern expressed about an increase in truck traffic volume at the dangerous intersection nearby on a sharp curve of Route 187. In the application to the commission, which states that the water will be used to provide a water supply for development and hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells, the applicant makes a point of saying this is accessible to a major road south of the river (Route 187)... where Chesapeake has proposed drilling operations.

The Sugar Run water withdrawal would include consumptive use, which essentially means that the water is never returned to the basin after being removed by a man-made conveyance system.

There is another pending water withdrawal site in Terry Township on the Newton property just above Terrytown and across the river from the Wyalusing Rocks. The volume requested in the application there is for just under a million gallons a day.

Chesapeake stated in an application to the SRBC that over the next four years, its operations alone will need 20-25 million gallons a day to meet their needs.

Although the gas companies prefer to pull their water out of the river, they do have some withdrawals in the region from major tributaries in the basin. There are two withdrawal points on the Wyalusing Creek—both in Susquehanna County's Rush Township. Their combined withdrawal is up to about 710,000 gallons a day.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has the ultimate responsibility for managing the water resources of the Susquehanna Basin in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland through which the river flows before emptying in the Chesapeake Bay. The basin itself includes about a 27,510 square mile drainage area.

Consumptive water use in the basin was estimated at about 270 million gallons every day in 1970 and had almost doubled to 500 mgd in 2000.

SRBC projects the demand for consumptive water uses will increase to more than 1.2 billion gallons per day by 2025, the agency reports.

Some may consider it something of a paradox that not so far upstream along the banks of Sugar Run, methane has been bubbling in the river water since last summer. This has been attributed to gas drilling activities in the area.

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