Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SRBC Suspends 17 Water Withdrawals Due To Low Stream Flows

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission Wednesday announced 17 separate water withdrawals approved by SRBC are temporarily suspended due to localized stream flow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna basin.     
            The withdrawals are in Bradford (4), Luzerne (1), Lycoming (4), Susquehanna (1) and Tioga (2) counties.
            “Hydrologic conditions have been on a steady decline for some time following a winter with very little snow and below normal rainfall this spring,” said SRBC executive director Paul Swartz.  “As a result of low streamflows in many portions of the basin, 17 individual water withdrawals affecting 10 companies in 5 Pennsylvania counties have been temporarily suspended by virtue of the Commission’s passby flow restrictions.  The majority of those suspended withdrawals are related to water for natural gas development.”
            Under SRBC’s passby flow restrictions, when streams drop to pre-determined protected low flow levels, project sponsors who are required to meet the agency’s passby requirement must stop taking water.  They cannot resume taking water until streams have recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours.
            SRBC and its regulated project sponsors monitor real-time streamflow data generated by stream gages maintained and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey.  Based on unseasonably low streamflow conditions, SRBC’s passby requirements actually began kicking in as early as February 2012 for certain water withdrawals in northern Pennsylvania.
            Regulated project sponsors are required to install tamper-proof water meters that automatically record their water withdrawals on a daily basis.  SRBC also monitors the USGS gages daily to determine which ones have triggered, and SRBC’s field staff conducts frequent spot-inspections to verify compliance with passby requirements. 
            Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Water Management Deputy Secretary Kelly Heffner said, “The department has been closely monitoring the key hydrologic parameters, including streamflows, groundwater levels, and precipitation deficits as well as soil moisture indexes.  Among the protocols that DEP follows is the 90-day trigger of much below normal precipitation.”
           Swartz said, “If rainfall shortages persist, the Commission anticipates more water withdrawals being suspended, as was the case in 2010 and 2011.  The Commission does not wait for drought declarations to temporarily halt water withdrawals.  Our science-based stream protection system kicks in well before streams drop to critical low levels.” 
            Not all SRBC approvals contain passby restrictions.  Those are the withdrawals where the approved withdrawal amounts are so small that they will not affect the protective levels of streams.  In those cases, companies can continue to take water during low flow periods.
            The suspended water withdrawals include:
Bradford County
-- Chesapeake Energy: Sugar Creek
-- Healthy Properties: Sugar Creek
-- Talisman Energy: Fall Brook at Bense, Seeley Creek at Jones, Sugar Creek at Hoffman, Wappasening Creek at Adriance, unnamed tributary to North Branch Sugar Creek
-- Tennessee Gas Pipeline: Towanda Creek
Luzerne County
-- Eagle Rock Community Association: Abandoned Quarry associated with unnamed tributary to Tomhicken Creek
Lycoming County
-- EXCO Resources: Muncy Creek at McClintock
-- Hughesville-Wolf Township Joint Municipal Authority: wastewater from treatment plant
-- Keystone Clearwater Solutions: Lycoming Creek
-- XTO Energy: Lick Run, Little Muncy Creek
Susquehanna County
-- Carrizo: unnamed tributary to Middle Branch Wyalusing Creek
Tioga County
-- Keystone Clearwater Solutions: Babb Creek
-- Tennessee Gas Pipeline: unnamed tributary of North Elk Run
            The full announcement will be posted on SRBC's website.

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