WIND RIDGE – Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park, dry for almost eight years, will be restored under a settlement agreement announced Wednesday between the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Consol Energy Inc.
“We’re here to give you some good news,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allen said at a news conference held Wednesday at the park “It’s been a long time, we recognize It’s been a long time since 2005 when the lake was drawn down,” he said. “I’m very happy to report we have a resolution and we will be rebuilding the dam and restoring the lake as soon as possible.” Allen said the department hopes to have the lake restored by the summer of 2017.
Expanding cracks in the concrete dam at Ryerson forced DCNR in July 2005 to drain the lake and remove part of the dam.
DCNR filed a claim against Consol that maintained the damage was caused by Consol’s Bailey Mine, which was mining near the park.
The state Department of Environmental Protection later determined the damage was caused by mining and ordered Consol to restore the dam. Consol, which denied its mining activities were to blame, appealed DEP’s decision to the state Environmental Hearing Board, where the case was scheduled for trial next month.
Much of the agreement announced Wednesday had been included in recommendations made by a mediator in the case, who suggested Consol pay to restore the lake in return for being able to drill for natural gas beneath the park, but only from properties outside the park.
Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Consol will pay $36 million to replace the dam and will give DCNR eight parcels of land containing 506 acres it owns adjacent to park, increasing the park size by 40 percent.
The company will be able to drill for natural gas beneath park using horizontal drilling but only from well pads outside park boundaries. Consol will pay DCNR an 18 percent royalty for gas production from the wells under the park after $13.7 million has been made on the wells by Consol.
The company also will be permitted to mine coal it owns in the eastern area of the park once it receives mining permits, but will be prohibited from mining under the dam or lake. In addition, Consol will build a park maintenance building, monitor stream flows and ground movement with DEP oversight and be prohibited from using water from the park for drilling activities.
“We could have stretched this thing out for ever in court battles,” said state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg. “(But we might) never have had the opportunity to restore a natural gem that we have here in Greene County.”