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SRBC Restores Water Withdrawal Permits After Heavy Rain

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) said Tuesday it has restored all but one of the 17 water withdrawal permits it had temporarily suspended last week following drought conditions in the basin.

"As of today, all but one suspended withdrawal has been lifted," SRBC spokeswoman Susan Obleski told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday. "This is all the result of the heavy rainfall events this weekend."

Obleski said the one permit still under temporary suspension was for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. in Tioga County, where the company was permitted to draw water from an unnamed tributary of North Elk Run. But she added that the pipeline wasn't technically affected since the company only needed the water for construction and testing of the pipeline.

"The fact is that while we have the permit still on our records...the pipeline construction work was completed late last year, so the project itself isn't affected by the suspended withdrawal," Obleski said. "They are done using the water [and] they will ultimately close out the permit."

Most of the water withdrawal permits that were suspended on April 18 were for natural gas operators (see Shale Daily, April 20).

Under the SRBC's "pass by flow" restrictions, when streams fall to pre-determined protected low-flow levels, project sponsors that are required to meet the commission's requirements have to stop taking water and may not resume taking water until the streams have "recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours."

Regulated project sponsors are required to install tamper-proof water meters to automatically record their water withdrawals on a daily basis. The SRBC also monitors gauges from the U.S. Geological Survey on a daily basis to determine which ones have triggered, and field staff conducts frequent spot inspections to verify compliance with pass by requirements.

Not all SRBC approvals contain pass by restrictions, such as approved withdrawal amounts that are so small they would not affect the protective levels of streams. In those cases, companies may continue to take water during low-flow periods.

The Susquehanna River Basin covers 27,510 square miles, including half of Pennsylvania and parts of New York and Maryland, and makes up a sizeable portion of the Marcellus Shale play. It is managed by the SRBC, a compact set up by the federal government in 1971. Representatives from the three aforementioned states and the Army Corps of Engineers serve as commissioners.

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