Trout Unlimited is featuring the Lake Erie watershed in a new report highlighting outstanding public fishing and hunting areas in the Central Appalachian region that are at risk from shale gas drilling-related activities.
The organization’s 10 Special Places report focuses on areas that are rich in fish, game and natural beauty, and that have for generations provided abundant opportunities for hunters and anglers. It covers threats to the specific regions and offers recommendations for the best approaches sportsmen and women can use to protect these areas from potential risks.
The Lake Erie watershed is the ninth of the “10 Special Places” to be announced. Trout Unlimited will announce a new place weekly this fall, releasing the full report in December.
“We need to proceed cautiously,” said Jerry Darkes, a fly fishing guide who operates Angling Consulting Services in Strongsville, Ohio. “It doesn’t have to be a race to pull everything out as fast as we can get it out.
“The steelhead fishery has developed to a point where it really is very important to the economics of not only northeast Ohio, but northwest Pennsylvania.”
Lake Erie and its tributaries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York are home to large commercial and recreational fisheries. An estimated 450,000 people fish the Ohio waters of Lake Erie annually, targeting species including steelhead, trout, walleye, bass and perch, and contributing $680 million to the state’s economy.
A recent survey of steelhead anglers in Erie County, Pa., found that they spent nearly $9.5 million on trip-related expenditures in a single year.
“The Lake Erie watershed is a unique place and an angler’s paradise,” said Katy Dunlap, Eastern Water Project Director for Trout Unlimited. “It is imperative that any shale gas-related development -- including Utica Shale gas drilling, water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater management -- is done in a way that avoids or minimizes impacts to these ecologically and economically valuable fisheries.”
Trout Unlimited promotes responsible energy development and, in collaboration with others, seeks to ensure that all reasonable efforts are made to avoid or mitigate the impacts such development may have on important coldwater resources, such as Lake Erie and its watershed.
Most of the Lake Erie watershed that overlies the Utica shale gas formation is found in Ohio, where a law adopted in 2012 allows companies to withdraw an average of 2.5 million gallons of water per day out of the lake over three months, without a permit.
The law also allows up to 1 million gallons per day to be pulled from streams that feed Lake Erie. Such withdrawals could adversely impact streamflows and steelhead fishing, and also could increase the risk of invasive species introductions.
While Utica shale gas drilling is just getting underway in Ohio, the state has been receiving wastewater from drilling operations in Pennsylvania, and disposing of the water in deep injection wells.
Trout Unlimited is urging anglers and hunters to call on the state and the gas industry to: develop rules to manage water withdrawals to protect streams, wetlands and other bodies of water in the watershed; ensure that comprehensive invasive species control programs are in place; and to also study the cumulative impacts of shale gas wastewater disposal in underground injection wells in Ohio.The report and related content are available online.