Why Fracking The Grand Is A Bad Idea

Today’s guest blog for our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series discusses concerns over fracking the Grand River from Kathryn Hanratty, with Enviroscapes Landscape Design:

Take Action to Protect the
Grand River

Tell the Ohio legislature to institute strong protective standards for natural gas development!

The Grand is an incredibly beautiful and diverse river. Springing from wetland tributaries, it traverses 98 miles and drains over 700 square miles before joining Lake Erie.

Originating in a network of marshes and small streams, the Grand River rushes through steep gorges rimmed with hemlock, slows down to flow through wet forests of swamp oak, maple, and ash, before finally widening out to become a coastal wetland with dunes and marshes when it reaches Lake Erie.  

This amazing array of habitats supports over 75 different kinds of fish, 18 types of reptiles, numerous amphibian species, and almost 50 different mammals.  Between eighty and ninety bird species are found here— making the Grand River an Important Bird Area according to the National Audubon Society.

The Grand is dangerously imperiled by the potential for catastrophic withdrawal and pollution by shale gas drilling.  The average amount of water to frack one well uses as much water as a family of four will use in 50 years.  The industry has told us to expect thousands of shale gas wells in the next few years.

Shale gas extraction has the potential to endanger the Grand River with large irregular withdrawals. Due to the Grand River’s geology, most of the flow is maintained by snow and rain fall.  This makes the Grand River and its tributaries especially sensitive.  Water withdrawal during periods of low flow could kill fish and damage critical habitat.

Other parts of the country have experienced surface and ground water pollution, air pollution, soil contamination, habitat fragmentation, and erosion from shale gas production.  The potential for impacts from shale gas drilling to the watershed of the Grand River are enormous.  Watersheds are fragile and complex systems.  NO amount of restoration can fully restore such natural systems if we do not adequately protect them.  The Grand River is too precious to squander.


On May 24, the Ohio legislature approved a bill (SB 315) that outlines new regulations for shale gas drilling in Ohio.  We have concerns about the bill, outlined by our partner Trent Dougherty, in his testimony [PDF] before the Ohio State Senate.  Trent breaks it down in his recent blog post as well.

The Ohio legislature needs to improve these new regulations.  As a start, they should pass HB 474, which will require the highest standards for groundwater monitoring, testing of injected chemicals, siting of injection wells, and general transparency for natural gas fracking wastewater disposal through underground injection wells.  Lend your voice to this effort to protect the Grand River and tell the Ohio legislature to institute strong protective standards for natural gas development!