DELMAR TOWNSHIP – Seneca Resources is offering to install two bridges, widen and improve a gravel road in exchange for using it for heavy trucks.
Township supervisors held a public meeting on Oct. 8 about the proposal. More than 30 residents filled the meeting room and spilled outside.
Ben Williams, construction manager for Seneca, said the project would cover 3.6 miles from State Route 287 to a gas pad at the top in the Tioga State Forest. Seneca has more than 10,000 acres in lease holdings, two completed wells and is currently drilling for more wells on the site.
Currently, the tri-axles and tractor trailers are accessing and exiting the production area using Shortsville Hill Road in Chatham Township. Seneca’s proposal is to create a one-way route for truck traffic, which would enter on Baldwin Run Road and exit by the existing road.
Seneca would install a new bridge on private property to create a better turning access for trucks, then straighten and widen sections of the road. Baldwin Run, which ranges in width from 10 to 16 feet, would have two eight-foot lanes for most of the route although some places the lanes would be just six feet wide, said Williams. Pull-off areas would be constructed close to the pinch points.
In addition, the company would add a one to two-foot shoulder, install ditches and drainage, replace a culvert on Sawdust Trail.
Lastly, the company would conduct a “full depth reclamation” of the road surface, milling 12 inches of the surface, stabilizing the earth with cement and reapplying and compacting the mixture. After it cures, a six to eight inch limestone surface would be applied.
The project, which would start in May, would be finished by the end of the year, said the project engineer. It would require closing sections of the road and re-routing traffic.
Local residents on Baldwin Run spoke in favor of the project, citing mud in spring, dust in summer and a tree canopy that prevents ice from melting in winter. Several told stories of sliding on ice, near misses with trees and aiding crash victims.
Others raised concerns about buildings that are close to the road and increased run-off into Baldwin Run, which is listed as a high-quality, cold-water trout stream. Removing the canopy, said members of Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group, would affect the wildlife and bird species, as well as raising water temperatures and impacting aquatic life.
Gary Cooper, fire chief of Middlebury Township Fire Department, said the road is now permitted for 10-tons. The average ambulance weighs nearly that much and a small fire truck is 17.5 tons. Emergency vehicles have had difficulty in the past accessing residents due to the narrowness and a 1930s-era bridge at the base.
Development of the area began before the gas company arrived, said Cooper.
“I say if you guys are willing to foot the bill, do it,” he said gesturing toward the Seneca representatives.
Seneca would maintain the road through its use of it, said Williams. The company is also exploring other options and roads.
Supervisors took no action at the hearing, stating it was to gather information. The board next meets at 7 p.m. Oct. 15.