Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gas Well Drilling is threatening Revolutionary War Period Fort!

Monument erected on the site of Lindley's Fort on Demas Lindley's land, just down the road from the Upper Ten Mile Church and cemetery.
Added by: Cynthia Rice

We are in a crisis here in Pennsylvania. Our archaeological sites are under constant pressure from development, and now from Marcellus Shale gas drilling. Within the state, all archaeological sites are threatened. Most often, those within the archaeological community are the last to know when a site is about to be destroyed. My blog post is about a site that is known and now under threat, the well could be built at any time.
I received a phone call over the weekend from a very concerned citizen. He clarified he was not against drilling, but had read the article posted in the Washington, PA, Observer-Reporter. He was upset that a gas well access road was going to be built directly through a Revolutionary War period fort, Fort Lindley.
            A description of Demas Lindley's Fort (1773 - 1780's), near Prosperity, located on North Fork Ten Mile Creek1 is given as follows:
“In the seventeen-seventies a typical frontier fort stood on rising ground above a small river in Western Pennsylvania. The traveler who today drives through Washington County may see the monument of white granite that marks the site near the village of Prosperity. It is known as Lindley’s Fort. It consisted of a bullet-proof and loophole stockade of rough fifteen-foot logs, trimmed to sharp heads and planted in the form of a square. Block-houses of timber, jutting from and rising above the four corners, commanded the walls. Backed against the palisades within, and with roofs sloping inwards, several log-cabins provided for the accommodation of fugitives. A folding gate made of stout slabs afforded means of ingress and egress on the side nearest the spring, which supplied water. The whole was constructed without a nail or spike of iron. There was no stronger private fort on the marches; and none was more needed.
            Whenever an alarm was raised that Indians were out on the war-path and marching thitherward, backwoodsmen seized their guns and conveyed their women and children to the fort. Any of them who were caught unawares lost their scalps and their lives or were carried off into captivity. “2
            The historical importance of these forts cannot be overstated. So few of them have been excavated in Pennsylvania, and because of that we know very little about them. We need everyone’s help on this. Range Resources ( http://www.rangeresources.com) needs to be notified and told about this over sight! Also if I could get people to email or call the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) at (http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/dep_home/5968) and tell them that we are tired of the destruction that gas well drilling has done to our archaeological resources! Please, contact these organizations even if you are not from Pennsylvania or even the US, this is a global problem where everyone is needed to help!
           For more information on Fort Lindley, please visit: Fort Lindley


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Monday, October 10, 2011

Archaeology and Gas Well Drilling: A Discussion

I thought I would write a small commentary on the interview I had with the Observer-Reporter from the last post. Hopefully this will clear a few things up about how archaeological sites are impacted by drilling for natural gas. This will also serve as a rebuttal to Robert McHale of Mark West Liberty Midstream & Resources. So let's get through this complicated mess that has become of archaeology in Pennsylvania.
Cropped portion of image from USGS report show...Image via Wikipedia
Extent of Marellus Shale Gas USGS

Let me add a disclaimer to start. I am NOT OPPOSED to gas well drilling! We need the energy her in the United States, and it's always better if we use our own resources than take it from someone else. What I am concerned with, is the lack of Phase I archaeological surveys for these Marcellus Shale gas extraction sites.

Normally when a company wants to build something, such as a cell phone tower or highway, where state of federal monies are being used, it trips Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.This is part of their permitting process. An archaeological survey must be done to look for sites that are unknown or possibly known about. We do this by using a map with the area that will be impacted, and dig test holes screening all of the material in an ordered grid like pattern. If we find a site, depending on its size or historical significance, the project can be moved away from it, or further archaeological testing must be done. I have worked surveying cell phone towers that are 100 feet by 100 feet, very small in comparison to the acres of disturbance a gas well can cause.

Unfortunately in Pennsylvania, the permits are funneled through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) who for some reason, sees only the size of the well head which is 1 meter by 1 meter in size. They ignore the acres upon acres that are destroyed by access roads, sediment ponds, and the preparation of the enormous well pads!

To read that Robert McHale would say that they “pick a clear spot” and go. A clear spot, in a farmers field, over looking a stream? A perfect spot for a Native American village or camp? Mr. McHale would like the readers to believe that they have access to all of the databases that the state has, and they probably do, but what about the sites not on the map? Section 106 is about finding the unrecorded sites, the sites that lay buried just beneath the soil. There are burials out there, children and infants. Their bones scattered by the bulldozer because these people think that they have the answers. I am constantly surprised by the lack of intervention by Native Americans in this situation that Pennsylvania has found itself in.

Archaeological sites and data cannot be put back into place. If the law is good enough for a company building a cell phone tower or coal mine, it should be good enough for a resource extraction company. It is estimated that 44,000 wells will be drilled in Pennsylvania alone, that 44,000 archaeological sites impacted if we don't find them and work with the companies to protect them.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gas drilling threatens archaeological sites!

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marce...Image via Wikipedia An interview with Archaeology Dude (Marc Henshaw)
As taken from the Washington, Pennsylvania Observer-Reporter on 10/09/11:

As drilling expands, area archaeologists worry that historical sites will be undone

By Christie Campbell Staff writer chriscam@observer-reporter.com

As land is leveled, access roads built and impoundments created for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling sites, some fear that significant archaeological sites could be lost.

But archaeologists are on staff or accessible to local gas drillers and processors, who say the professionals assist in determining optimum places to drill or lay pipeline in order to avoid historical areas.

Because Pennsylvania laws do not require archaeological surveys for sites under 10 acres, natural gas drilling pads, which take up about 4 or 5 acres, are exempt.

That concerns archaeologists like Marc Henshaw, president of the Mon-Yough Chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology in Brownsville. Natural gas extraction operations usually encompass multiple sites such as drilling pads, staging areas and water impoundments, and the acreage is not added together.

Henshaw, who also operates a private survey company, has undertaken archaeological studies prior to the construction of roads, shopping centers and cellular towers but has yet to receive a call from a gas extraction company.

That could be because archaeologists are employed by the industry. Mike Mackin, communications manager for Range Resources, said the company's archaeologist combs through state records and databases to determine if an area has significant archaeological importance before determining where to locate a drill site.

"Which would we rather do, stop a pipeline and notify the (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) or do it on the front end, pick a clear spot, and go?" asked Robert McHale, manager of environmental regulatory affairs for MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources. The company has an archaeologist who reviews preliminary pipeline routes. Environmental inspectors can be found on job sites but, noting that pipelines often are going through agricultural lands that have been tilled over many times, McHale said finding something is "on the low end."

But Henshaw fears there may be thousands of archaeological and historical sites that have not been recorded with the PHMC. The chapter has been working on recording sites in Greene County and over a period of 50 years has identified 296 of them.

Speaking for the Marcellus Shale Coalition in Southpointe, Travis Windle said that if an artifact is found, the industry is required to notify the Bureau of Historic Preservation, which has 180 days to complete a site excavation.

Henshaw was part of a survey of a Monongahela People site discovered in 1997 when construction of the Strabane Square shopping center began. The village dated to 1400 A.D., and two burials were found at the site.

Archaeological teams from Indiana University of Pennsylvania studied the site, and developers even relocated two stores in order that the entire site could be left intact. Today, it lies buried under the center's parking lot, thus further preserving it, Henshaw said.

The chapter is not opposed to gas drilling, said Henshaw, but wants it done safely, lawfully and with care to minimize impacts to archaeological sites.

According to Howard Pollman, spokesman with the PHMC, the 10-acre rule is the result of a policy agreement between the commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection when much land across Pennsylvania was being developed in the 1990s.

"People think it's an exemption for Marcellus Shale, and it's not," he said. It does not apply to sites on the National Register of Historic Places or a project receiving federal funds.

Although the PHMC is not a regulatory body, it does make recommendations for property owners wishing to lease their land for gas drilling, advising them to require gas developers to protect historic resources. It also calls on drilling companies to check with local historical societies or a county planning office for maps of known historic sites or cemeteries.

Doug McLearen, PHMC's division chief of archaeology and protection, acknowledged that as the number of Marcellus Shale projects increase, there is a greater probability that a significant site could be impacted.

That possibility concerns history buffs like Carl Maurer, the archaeology society chapter's vice president, whose eyes light up when he talks about digs he's been on. If sites are destroyed, the knowledge and the motivation to learn more could be gone forever, he said.

"In 50 years, students may want access to something, and it won't be there," he said. "We don't even know what we're losing."

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