On October 18, Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Bob Keller, our Lighthawk Pilot, Carl Heilman II, nature photographer, and I took a flight together over the Allegany State Park (ASP) and the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). (See a slide show of our flight. Visuals of our flight path are available as a series of images at the end of the slide show and as a kmz file here.Click on photos below for location and credits. Hyperlinks in text below take you to points in the slide show where the subject of the text is illustrated, and/or to points on TEIS drilling map. Some images in the slide show are linked to specific map points)
Our mission was to document the destruction of the ANF near the ASP border (see image below) where US Energy had recently polluted Yeager Brook, a tributary of Quaker Run in the Allegany State Park. An ADP Forest Watch Team, which included the Wolf Run Alliance and Allegheny Outdoor Adventures, had investigated and reported on the US Energy drilling devastation in that area on August 21.
Neil, Bob, Carl and I also planned to fly south to document the Marcellus Shale Gas well drilling sites on the ANF and on the in-holdings within the footprint of the Allegheny National Forest.
I met Bob, Neil, and Carl at KOLE Olean-Cattaraugus, a fine aviation facility located northwest of Cuba, NY. Bob O’Connell managed the facility that day making sure we had everything we needed for our flight. The day was overcast, but our visibility was good enough given our mission to document drilling. Our flight path took us south along Route 219 to the NY-PA border, which we followed west to photo US Energy’s drilling activity (see images above and below).
We circled the activity there to get shots of roads, tank batteries, generators, equipment (see image above),
well pads, brine pits (see image above),
stone quarries, and other infrastructure that US Energy has inflicted on the landscape (see image above).
The presence of drilling right on, or over, the NY State border was apparent from our aerial vantage point (see photo below)
as it is on Google Earth Satellite Imagery (see image below--the horizontal white line is the border between the ANF and the ASP).
After documenting the ANF-ASP border area, we headed south where we picked up our first Marcellus Shale Gas well site, an Atlas Energy site on FR 173 (see image below) south of Route 346 (West Washington Street) and Stickney (see flight path).
This site is an atypical well. Although, it is characterized as a Marcellus well, it is producing oil. The site shows obvious violations in tank battery containment structures (see Forest Watch Report).
From the Atlas Energy site we flew south. We viewed Willow Bay (see image below), and
the proposed Sugar Run Wilderness Area, and the Tracy Ridge National Recreation Area in the west (see image below).
We continued flying south over the North Branch of Sugar Run, and the intersection of 321 and Route 59 between Klondike and Marshburgh (see flight path).
We flew south over Chappel Fork and TEIS Area 3, specifically circling sub-area b (see image above), and then crossed Kinzua creek near Red Bridge and Chappel Bay (see image below).
We flew southwest, crossing Meade Run and the South Branch of Kinzua Creek at 321 (see flight path). We then followed the path of the North Country Trail, south of Wild Cat Run. We crossed Two-Mile Run and Route 6 and then followed the East Branch of Tionesta Creek, through TEIS area 7, skirting the northern edge of the Tionesta Scenic Area.Our path took us over Rt. 948 and the South Branch of Tionesta Creek (see image below),
through TEIS area 9, and over Rt. 666 and Tionesta Creek (main steam) at Henry Mills (see image below, see flight path).
We continued south past Deadman Corners, over the PGE oil and gas fields there, pastTEIS area 15, over The Branch, and then circled over the PGE Marcellus Shale gas well sites planned for ANF lands, and those already established on Collins Pine in-holdings (see images below).
In September, an ADP Forest Watch team had hiked in to document the PGE Marcellus Shale gas well in the image below. The well site was uncharacteristically groomed with a limestoned pad and landscape boulders. We surmised that this was the company's poster site.
We continued flying south over Salmon Creek(see image below),
The well site (see image above) and water impoundment/wastewater pit (see image below) were also the site of a joint Sierra Club-ADP outing in the spring of 2010.
In the image below the well site in the top part of the photo is on Collins Pine land, and the water impoundment/wastewater pit in the foreground, is on Gamelands no. 24 near Coon Creek.
After leaving the Muzette PGE site, we headed east over Rt. 66 and 899 just south of Marienville. We passed Buzzard Swamp, Spring Creek, and flew on to Gamelands no. 28, the site of Seneca Resources Marcellus Shale gas wells just west of Owls Nest (see image below, see flight path). An ADP Forest Watch Team visited these Seneca Resources wells in February 2010.
We next headed southeast through TEIS area 20, over the Clarion River south of Ridgeway, and east toward Elk State Forest south of St. Mary's and Kersey to see the EOG well sites inflicted on Pennsylvania State Public Land (see flight path).
An ADP Forest Watch Team visited the EOG Marcellus Shale gas well sites in July and August 2010. The EOG sites are spaced relatively close together, and lack water impoundments and waste water pits.
Our flight over the ANF and ASP was wonderful in that it brought new friends and allies together in our work to protect and restore the wild forests and rivers of the Alleghenies, but it was also devastating to see the impact of continued shallow, stripper-well drilling and the new unconventional Marcellus Shale gas well drilling and High Volume Slick-water Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing. What has become clear during this year of Forest Watch, and our autumn flight over the contiguous forest of the Allegheny-Allegany, is that we do not have much time. It is now or never to protect this important habitat and watershed from continued decline.