In the Ohio drainage basin, in southwestern Pennsylvania, Laurel Hill Creek—a high quality coldwater fishery, with four exceptional value streams—is surrounded by state parks, forests and game lands throughout much of its 125-square mile watershed. Laurel Hill Creek joins the Youghiogheny River and Casselman River just north of the aptly-name small town called Confluence.
Favored for its deep green riffles and runs, many anglers make the trek through the remote, scenic Laurel gorge to fish for brown, brook and rainbow trout in Laurel Hill Creek. Concerns over low stream flows and water availability over the past two decades prompted the state to designate the Laurel Hill Creek as a critical water planning area in 2010. Shale gas development requires between 2 and 8 million gallons of water per hydraulic fracturing job per well, and much of that water is coming from nearby streams. Unlike the Delaware River and Susquehanna River basins, the Ohio basin lacks an independent commission with authority to regulate how much water is taken from a stream. In this already water-stressed basin, the increasing shale gas development in the region, and the possibility that state lands surrounding Laurel Hill Creek will be drilled, creates additional pressure on this stream and its tributaries.
In order to protect aquatic life and the stream’s fishing legacy, the state needs to establish a water withdrawal permitting system that ensures that any water withdrawals will not negatively impact stream flow levels or critical fish habitat.