After overcoming efforts to limit fossil fuel development on public lands in Ohio, communities across the state are experiencing extraordinary benefits from oil and natural gas production royalties. The latest example of this is taking place in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), as it’s becoming a record-setting tourist attraction due to investments in campgrounds and other amenities funded by oil and natural gas revenues.
To date, MWCD has invested close to $200 million stemming from energy revenues in upgrades to its facilities through a Master Plan redesign. This includes efforts to build new campgrounds, renovate aging spaces, add new playgrounds, sports courts, and trails. Likely in response to these upgraded recreational facilities, in 2021 the district saw a record-breaking 5 million-plus visitors, and projects that even more tourists will continue to visit its district.
Given the success of MWCD’s Master Plan, the district recently signed its largest oil and natural gas lease to date to develop 7,300 acres of land in the Utica Shale basin. The five-year contract will result in around 15 wells, with the possibility to add additional wells in an optional three-year extension. MWCD will receive $5,500/acre, paid over five years, and gross royalty of 20 percent.
Gordon Maupin, the president of the District’s board of directors, spoke to the projected benefits of the lease agreement, including the environmental protections that were included in the agreement:
“The lease for property at Tappan Lake continues our tradition of balancing our desire to upgrade our operations and infrastructure for public enjoyment, renew and increase our focus on improving the watershed and water quality and protecting our resources by requiring enhanced environmental protections.”
This partnership clearly shows the possibilities to collaborate with the industry while developing assets that will bring both direct and indirect benefits to the surrounding communities. Naturally, this requires a strong will to collaborate and accountability on both sides. For example, as part of the Tappan Lake lease, MWCD can review the erosion control, construction and reclamation plans, and demand water testing for Tappan or any freshwater sources on MWCD lands within 3,000 feet of the well site.
MWCD’s annual report comes off the heels of other recent news that points to the substantial benefits that oil and natural gas has brought to Ohio. Last month, JobsOhio and Cleveland State University reported that more than $100 billion has been invested in Ohio’s energy development since the shale revolution. Additionally, the American Petroleum Institute estimated that the industry provides approximately 351,000 jobs in the Buckeye State, with natural gas and oil workers earning 65 percent more than the average worker, resulting in more than $25 billion in wages.
Bottom line: By harnessing the energy-rich Utica shale reservoirs right below its feet, MWCD has been able to upgrade its citizens’ quality of life and economic opportunities. However, this district is not alone: Ohioans across the Buckeye State are benefitting in monumental ways as the state continues to embrace American energy development.
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