Cedar waxwing in flight; it is one of two migratory bird species that no longer pass through the Deering yard.
Image: Erick Brock
About 5 years ago land men started showing their faces on our mountain. They talked to all the landowners, showing us different contracts for leasing our grounds. Very few of us had any idea what the ramifications of signing that lease would be.
Most of the contracts were for 5 years with an option for renewal. The leases ranged from $5-$50 per acre per year. Most of the hunting camps in the area saw this as a little extra money to help pay property taxes. Some signed and the fun began.
First, seismic testing crews showed up. They carved paths through the woods, drilled holes all over the place, helicopters flew overhead from morning until night, and flags were tied everywhere. It probably would not have been to bad if it was once and done, but we are now on are third time around for testing. Every time it seems to go a different direction: NE-SW, N-S, SE-NW, etc. Each new round of testing wore more paths through the woods. Soon (1st quarter of 2013) they will be starting again.
Truck delivering equipment.
Image: Bob Deering
About 3 ½ years ago the first trucks made a visit. I didn’t invite them, the state did. The trucks carried massive construction equipment: graders, track-hoes, bulldozers, tree cutting equipment, tree shredders. Our rural area started to change: our 15 foot gravel road is now like a highway.
To top it all off, the gas companies took over the road repair and traffic control. Now they tell us when it’s safe for us to use our own roads, that is when they’re not using it for their trucks. When winter comes you never know if you’ll be blocked off the roads by a broken down or stuck truck.
|The first well pad site. It has since expanded to include more permanent structures. Image: Bob Deering|
Now for the gas drilling operations. The first several sites were so deep in the State Forest no one knew exactly what was being done. As the sites expanded closer to view, the scope of them was revealed. Each site is approximately 10-15 acres or larger if they have a frack pond. Some of the pad sites are almost adjacent to each other with interconnecting roads and pipelines.
The gas industry schedules their workers day and night. Between the noise, dust, and fumes from the trucks, simple things like enjoying a Saturday cookout on the deck have been ruined.
The drilling companies are now in the process of what they call “adding infrastructure”: pipelines, water lines, roads and storage areas. Current laws allow some of these features to be built almost on top of your property. Where we once had darkness we now have stadium lighting. At night it looks as though a shopping center has been added to our neighborhood.
I have been in this area since I was 2 years old. In 2001 my wife and I started to build our retirement home – our dream home really. Well, our dream home is turning into a nightmare. What if conditions deteriorate to the point where we’re forced to move?
|The Deerings built this home when Bob retired. Image: Bob Deering|
Our latest change? The local gas drilling company is building an open-pit frack wastewater retention pond. The site is on ground purchased adjacent to our property.
|Demolition of a property adjacent to the Deerings’ to prepare for the construction of a frack wastewater pit. Image: Bob Deering|
My wife and I are not “tree huggers,” but we do like wildlife and nature. It might be a coincidence, but bird patterns have changed since the industry came. We’ve kept records of migratory birds passing through our yard for 8 years. For the past 2 years we haven’t gotten grosbeaks or cedar-waxwings. These birds usually show up in the fall like clockwork, within a calendar day or two each year. Evidently the birds are smarter than the people: they moved on.
I won’t get into much about hunting, there are other variables causing changes as well; DCNR and Game Commission rule changes. All I can say, this is the first year since 1965 that I haven’t purchased a hunting license. I would feel guilty shooting any of the few animals we have left.
Some people feel gas drilling is a great thing. Personally, I have reservations. First, the shale gas isn’t going anywhere, it has been there for hundreds of years. Why the rush? If technology had time to catch up, I think the drilling could be completed much more efficiently and have less environmental impact.
I hear stories about the lumber and strip mining days of over 100 years ago, stories about the total devastation of the forests. Well, we certainly haven’t learned much from our past mistakes.