Reforesting Westmoreland Reservoir Site
January 25, 2022
This article originally appeared in the TribLive.
Thousands of new trees will be planted around the Beaver Run Reservoir as part of a $1.8 million plan finalized Wednesday to reforest about 140 acres where more than 50 gas wells have operated over the past decade.
Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County board members signed off on the reforestation plan officials expect to take two decades to complete.
“This is an effort to conserve our property. We are very environmentally conscious,” authority board Chairman Randy Roadman said.
CNX Resources, the Canonsburg-based energy company that has drilled and operated the gas wells at the Beaver Run site will pay for the project through five annual installments of about $370,000. Appalachian Forest Consultants of Somerset County will manage the program.
Nicholas Kerr, the authority’s land manager, said reforesting will be conducted at 19 locations where shallow and deep wells operated throughout the 5,000-acre site that includes natural wooded areas that surround the reservoir in Bell Township that supplies drinking water to about half of the agency’s more than 122,000 customers.
The project will include the planting of as many as 60,000 hardwood and pine trees and pay for mowing, improvement of soil, installation of deer fencing, hydroseeding and watering.
“We think this is a really great program to reach our lofty goal to maintain the integrity of the watershed,” Kerr said. “A healthy forest correlates to a quality water source.”
Shallow and deep gas wells have been a lucrative funding stream for the authority, which earns royalties on natural gas produced at Beaver Run. The authority received about $1.7 million over the past year in gas royalties and another $2.7 million in the fiscal year that ended in March 2020, according to authority business manager Brian Hohman.
Hohman said 56 wells continue to operate at the Beaver Run site.
Officials said no authority funds will be used in the reforestation effort, which will be paid for entirely by CNX.
“This long-term pledge demonstrates our commitment to being a reliable partner and responsible operator in the communities where we live and work. We are pleased to be able to work with MAWC on this important project to the benefit of the local community,” CNX Chief Operating Officer Chad Griffith said.
Planting is expected to begin this spring, officials said.