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Decoding the language

By Carol McIntire
Editor

Decoding the language
Carroll County Engineer Brian Wise (left) and Chris Kiehl, GIS/permit administrator, check the location of an oil and gas well pad in Harrison Twp. on an enlarged map in the county engineer’s office.

RUMA and ROW are acronyms for words that have been popping up in conversations, newspapers and government meetings since the oil and gas industry emerged on Carroll County.

What are they? Why do we have them? How do they work? And, why are they so important?

RUMA, or Road Use Maintenance Agreement, and ROW, or Right-of-Way agreements are very important documents to township trustees, the county highway department and even residents who depend on county and township highways to get to their destination.

Brian Wise, Carroll County engineer, and Chris Kiehl, GIS/permit administrator for the Engineer’s Department, said RUMA became an everyday word in the engineer’s office about a year and a half ago when the industry began drilling wells.

“A RUMA is an agreement between an oil and gas company and the county that provides the oil and gas company to upgrade certain roads to handle the amount of traffic they will place upon them,” Wise said. “That could include anything on the high end from a full depth reconstruction up of the road and injection with concrete to stone improvements on the low end.  The company agrees to maintain the road at that standard until they are released by a three-party agreement consisting of township trustees, the engineer’s department and county commissioners.”

Wise said county engineers in Ohio are learning about RUMAs from their neighbors in Pennsylvania who worked the agreements backwards.

“In Pennsylvania the companies performed repairs to the roads after they used them,” he said.  “In Ohio, the county engineers in District 11 got together and created the agreement we are using now.” That agreement has become a model for other counties in Ohio.

In essence, every time an oil and gas company makes plans to drill an oil well with access off a county or township highway, they are required to fill out a RUMA agreement and other documents. If the site involves a township road, the company is responsible for taking the application to township trustees for approval. It then goes to the county engineer and is finalized when it reaches the desk of county commissioners. Each site must be visually checked and the plans reviewed.

With the interest companies are showing in the development of the Utica Shale in Carroll County and steady increase in the number of permits issued, the workload at the engineer’s department has increased as well.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s website shows a total of 181 Utica Shale permits issued in Carroll County as of Jan. 19, which is the most in Ohio. The closest county is Harrison with 64 permits, followed by Columbiana County with 62.

Kiehl, who began working with the engineer’s department in mid 2012, is devoting his full attention to the oil and gas industry. Some times a regular workday isn’t long enough to get the job done.

“The oil and gas companies don’t work an eight-hour day, so my phone rings in the evening and on weekends,” Kiehl noted.

“Some weeks my desk is full of RUMAs and other times it’s ROW permits. It’s an exciting time in Carroll County.”

RUMAs are time consuming, but they are also benefiting the county. Wise noted the oil and gas industry has invested over $40 million in county and township road improvement projects.

“We spend a lot of time on RUMAs but we are also receiving a benefit,” he said. “The improvements they are making to our roads we couldn’t have done financially. Several of the roads that had a chip-and-seal surface are now asphalt and they have replaced some culverts.”

He noted the asphalt surface freezes over differently than a chip-and-seal surface, which is necessitating a change in the county highway department’s snow control procedures. “We are making the adjustments,” he said.

Townships roads have also been the beneficiary of upgrades. Some initially were paved, which posed a problem for townships that did not stock salt for ice control. However, Wise noted that now most of the oil and gas companies are sticking with the original surface of township roads or chip-and-seal when they are upgraded.

ROW permits
ROW permits allow for the use of the right-of-way along county and township highways. Traditionally, utility companies and residents installing driveways accounted for the majority of those permits. Applications have increased four-fold over a one year period. During 2011, they received 74 ROW permits and 17 driveway permits. In 2012, they escalated to 454 ROW permits and 247 driveway permits.

Wise noted the only authorized use of the right-of-way along county and township roads is for the installation of distribution lines that deliver a public utility to residents (i.e., natural gas, phone, etc). State law prohibits the installation of transmission lines in public right-of-ways.

Pipeline and oil and gas companies are applying for permits to bore or make cuts under county and township roads and for temporary driveways to gain access to pipeline construction projects.

“All these must be inspected as well,” Kiehl said, adding they have also received requests to run water lines from pond sites to well sites to be used in the hydraulic fracturing process. “This is a benefit because it cuts down on the number of trucks on the highway,” he added.

TECHNOLOGY
The influx of the oil and gas industry into Appalachia Ohio is posing another challenge: keeping up with technology.

Most of the companies come from other states and utilize very modern forms of technology to communicate.

“They are forcing us to get up to speed with technology because they use it and, in order to communicate with them, we have to use it as well,” Wise said. “Thankfully Chris has a smart phone.”

Communication as well as organization are vital with any project of this scale. Both Wise and Kiehl chuckled when they unveiled a blown up map of the county posted on a wall with color-coded push pins marking each well site.

“It’s not fancy, but it’s effective,” Kiehl said. “It shows us where each well pad is located and the company that applied for the permits.”

One quick look provides a great deal of information: where the concentration of wells is located, which roads are involved and where pipelines will be laid to gather the oil and send it to cryogenic and fractionation facilities, all without having to sort through piles of paperwork.

As of Jan. 24, the map showed 105 pad sites, 100 of which belong to Chesapeake Exploration, four for Rex Energy and one for Enervest.
“It isn’t fancy, but it works for us,” Kiehl said. “We may have to purchase a lot of push pins before this thing is complete.”


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