Columbia Gas to begin limited clearing in Mohican next week
BY LARRY PHILLIPS
News Journal



ODNR manages the 4,525-acre Mohican-Memorial State Forest as well as the separate 1,294-acre Mohican State Park and 29-acre Clear Fork Gorge State Nature Preserve.

PERRYSVILLE — Columbia Gas Transmission will begin limited clearing at eight of its 56 gas storage wells in the Mohican Memorial State Forest on Monday, as part of an agreement signed in February.

The clearing activity will be limited to already designated gas well sites and does not include clearing along underground natural gas transmission lines. The state and Columbia Gas are working towards an agreement for right of way maintenance along Columbia’s 13 miles of natural gas pipelines within the state forest and park.

This action is part of a pact limiting impact from gas well maintenance clearing activities, according to Andy Ware, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“This is a significant reduction from what had originally been mentioned,” Ware said. “Columbia never really said how much they might clear.

“What we have agreement on is zero to 60 feet can be completely cleared (around the well heads) and trees over 10 inches in diameter can be cleared from a 60- to 120-foot radius. Within that agreement there are some exceptions. Trees that don’t pose a risk we asked for an exception for, or those on the downslope in the Clear Fork Gorge we asked they not be removed as well.”

Kelly Merritt, communications manager for Columbia Gas Transmissions said the company is using a logging contractor approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“We know this has been a big issue and we didn’t want people to think we’re just showing up next week,” Merritt said.

In the five-year agreement signed by ODNR and Columbia Gas Transmission, the company agreed to limit most tree clearing to an area within 60 feet of the selected storage wells in the state park and state forest. In addition, Columbia and ODNR agree to the removal of trees greater than 10 inches in diameter in a zone 60 to 120 feet from each well.

Additional specified criteria in the agreement include: An extensive list of Best Management Practices will be utilized during tree clearing activities; Any impact to recreational trails will be repaired as soon as practical.

The company and the ODNR clashed earlier this year when Columbia’s maintenance crews crossed over into the forest while clearing a natural gas pipeline right-of-way on private property. Columbia Gas termed the incident an accident, but it drew the ire of the ODNR and a number of private citizens.

This limited clearing project should last three weeks, Merritt said, with staging and preparation to start Monday.

“We will have someone on site at all times,” he added.

The maintenance is necessary to remove trees that pose a danger or prevent the company from maintaining the integrity of their facilities.

“State forest staff will remain on site while any clearing work is being conducted,” said Tim Humphrey, Mohican-Memorial State Forest Manager. “In addition, Columbia Gas Transmission has submitted a detailed plan to address proper rehabilitation of impacted sites. Columbia has also hired an accredited master logger to conduct the clearing work.”

Merchantable logs from gas well clearing activity will be publicly auctioned. Proceeds from these sales will be used for purchasing land, or conservation easements, from willing sellers with property near or contiguous to Mohican-Memorial State Forest.

The State of Ohio began land acquisition to create Mohican-Memorial State Forest in 1928. In the 1950s, the State of Ohio entered into an agreement to allow Mohican-Memorial State Forest's use as an underground natural gas storage