DEP: Firms face lake water snags

Gas drillers’ access to Harveys Lake water doesn’t seem likely.

HARVEYS LAKE – The borough is girding itself against potential plans to use lake water for natural-gas drilling, but the state Department of Environmental Protection thinks attempting to gain access to the water might be more trouble than it’s worth.

At its recent monthly meeting, borough council had solicitor Charles McCormick write to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission noting in the letter that the council “strongly opposes &hellip any consumptive use of water from the tributary system of Harveys Lake.”

Council became concerned after receiving a phone call and a notice. The notice was of Chesapeake Energy’s request to increase its one-day water-removal limit from the basin to 20 million gallons, and the phone call was from an engineering firm representing a gas company.

Brent Ramsey, an environmental scientist with Harrisburg-based international engineering consulting firm Gannett Fleming, had asked who owned the water rights at the lake and if the water could be procured for a well-drilling client, borough secretary Susan Sutton said.

He also called the borough’s Environmental Advisory Council asking similar questions, EAC secretary Denise Sult said.

Ramsey said the client directed that the operation be kept confidential, but acknowledged that his company’s involvement is in securing water-use permitting and that approval for a source of water hasn’t yet been secured. He refused to comment on whether the lake was still a target or if other sources were being sought.

Tapping the lake’s resources might prove difficult, however, said DEP spokesman Mark Carmon. “There’s been a long-standing question mark about who owns the bottom of the lake,” he said. “It’s probably a lot more complicated that it’s worth, in a legal sense, for anybody.”

He said the borough doesn’t own the water and individual lakefront landowners would have to be contacted. Deeds would have to be checked for exact descriptions of how far out into the water each property border protrudes. Any user-landowner agreement would still need to get SRBC approval “and face the wrath of the neighbors on each side of them,” he said.

“We think that’s the way it would play out,” he said.

He said that he wasn’t aware of any proposals or approvals of water usage in Luzerne County for gas drilling.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader