Letters 09-08-2014

Try This Real Advice

The Advice Goddess? More like the “say confusing analogies and never answer the question,” mere mortal. Take the first reader’s question last week about breaking up with his iPod-purchasing GF: “MP3’S A CROWD”: Break up with her, iClod...

Nine-Year-Olds With Guns Not OK

I have been thinking about this awful situation in Arizona where a 9-year-old blew a shooting instructor away with an Uzi machine gun. I was looking for any consistency with other aspects of life...

Respect Our President

I recently read a Canadian’s view on our lack of respect for our President. It made me think about a time when, once elected, most Americans rallied around our new leader. We became united in moving forward and leading the world...

Northport Sewer A Bungle

The Northport sewer cost is $15.669 million not $12 million as recently stated in the Express. It is the most expensive sewer per household the Michigan SRF ever funded. Today the sewer is only processing 51,000 gpd on average...

Y Members Deserve Answers

Three weeks after Tom Van Deinse was fired from his position as Executive Director and Tennis Pro of the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA, I am still trying to understand the motives of the YMCA Board of Directors for their decision to remove him after 14 years of service...

Reflections on Order

Old men make lists. My father did it, and now that burden seems to be imposing itself on me. It wells up inside me with a vengeance and I must give vent to it. Here is my list:

Home · Articles · News · Features · A Billion Gallons of Water
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A Billion Gallons of Water

A project planned on a private hunting property in Kalkaska could push water use for Encana wells to over a billion gallons

Patrick Sullivan - September 23rd, 2013  

The Black River Conservation Association was formed in 1929 to preserve wildlife habitat.

For decades, the mission of the corporation remained committed to conservation and stewardship of hundreds of acres that the association’s membership could use for hunting and fishing, according to a review of Black River’s articles of incorporation.

The articles were amended in 1941 and the updated mission of the association was stated like this: “to acquire, hold, own, reforest and otherwise improve wild lands, and to conserve the game and wildlife thereon, and to use and enjoy said lands for outing purposes, ...; but no purpose of this corporation shall involve pecuniary gain or profit to its members or associates.”

Beginning in around 2009, the mission began to change.

The corporation purchased the mineral rights to its property from the state for over $100,000, state records show. The following year, the corporation entered an agreement with Energy West, and later Encana, to lease mineral rights for the purpose of natural gas hyrdaulic fracturing.

In December of that year, the Black River Conservation Association, a nonprofit corporation, became the Black River Association, a for-profit corporation.

The decades-old conservation association was now in the oil and gas business.


A filing with the Kalkaska County Register of Deeds shows the potential scale of the Encana project on Black River’s property could include the construction of two well pads, each with up to six horizontal fracturing wells. Currently, Encana only has permits for two wells on one pad, to be located just south of M-72 around 13 miles from Kalkaska and 10 miles from Grayling in Bear Creek Township.

Horizontal fracturing, or fracking, taps natural gas through wells drilled vertically into the ground and then horizontally into shale formations, breaking up rock with a mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release the gas.

The practice has drawn opposition from environmentalist due to, among other reasons, the vast amount of water the process requires.

According to the permits for the two wells that have been approved at Black River, these wells could require more water to drill than other wells in the region. The wells could each require over 35 million gallons of fresh water to drill; previous wells, including wells down M-72 in Excelsior and Oliver townships, stirred anger among environmentalists because they required roughly 25 million gallons.

Bridget Ford, an Encana spokeswoman, said the water use listed on the permit is only an estimate and the amount of water necessary for the Black River project could be lower.

“The estimates are higher than some of our previous wells and the laterals for these wells are longer than any we’ve drilled to date in Michigan,” Ford said. “We may adjust these totals once we’ve drilled the well, but as of right now that is our estimate.”


Paul Brady, an anti-facking activist who happens to live in Bear Creek Township, said the Black River project could increase the amount of water used for Encana projects in Northern Michigan to over a billion gallons.

That’s if the project grows to include all 12 wells described in the “untization agreement” and the amount of water projected on the first two applications is used for all 12 wells, and includes water that would be required for new wells planned in nearby Oliver and Excelsior townships.

“If you look at the water that is proposed for the Oliver expansion, the Excelisor expansion, and the new C4-24 well pad, between all of those, along with the Black River, we’re looking at a billion gallons. And this thing is just getting started.”

That is troubling to Brady because Encana does not have to pay the state for water it takes from the ground and much of the activity is located in the upper waters of the Manistee River watershed.

“Still, we have no cumulative impact water studies whatsoever. None,” he said.

State officials from the Department of Environmental Quality maintain that water usage is monitored and water withdrawals for horizontal fracking will not impact area watersheds.

“We take water use and protection very seriously in all of our operations,” Ford said. She said horizontal fracking wells produce the equivalent of 18 to 20 vertical wells, so the surface impact is smaller and the return is greater than from traditional wells.


Brady said another concern about the Black River project is the effect it could have on the character of Bear Creek Township, a wooded, rural setting of mostly far-apart homes and hunting cabins set deep in the woods.

Brady said he fears the Black River project could make part of the township feel industrial.

“The industrialization leads to a huge decline in property value,” Brady said. “We’ve seen that in other places. It only makes sense. Nobody wants to live next to an industrial site. No one wants to see it; no one wants to smell it.”

The Northern Express visited the area.

There is a strip of homes on M-72 not far from the first proposed well pad. Many of those homes are apparently seasonal homes. Several permanent residents who spoke with the Express said they had not heard about the natural gas drilling plans.

They also said they were not concerned about a natural gas drilling project going in across M-72, which is a noisy, busy state highway.


Ford said this project, like other Encana projects, is designed to minimize impacts to wildlife and the environment.

“I would like to say that’s our goal in every area we operate, of course,” Ford said.

She said the Black River Association helped select the surface locations and Encana agreed to only work on the site at certain times during the year to minimize impact on wildlife.

According to the permit, work is supposed to begin this fall or winter and construction is expected to take around nine months.

The land has been a long-time destination as a private hunting and fishing land, so its owners must have paid attention to the environmental impact the project would have on the land.

John Shull, a Grand Rapids man who is the spokesman for the Black River association, said he had no comment.

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09.24.2013 at 09:49 Reply

Tha's all right - We can create more water to replace what we're losing to Encana.  It says so in the Bible.


09.24.2013 at 09:50 Reply

Anyone who thinks the health of the land doesn't matter is gravely misinformed.  Ask Aldo Leopold.  How could anyone think this is acceptable?


09.24.2013 at 09:51 Reply

Anyone who thinks the health of the land doesn't matter is gravely misinformed.  Ask Aldo Leopold.  How could anyone think this is acceptable?