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Ohio


Big rigs and small buggies on the back roads
Amish buggies try to make their way amid heavy gear and heavier trucks in the oil and gas fields
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Amish buggy and sand truck pass just past the entrance the the supermarket in Scio
Courtesy of tpr
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In The Region:
Environmental risks and economic trade-offs are often the topics of discussion when talk turns to the Utica Shale. But risks of a more practical sort are getting attention where the potential gas & oil boom has been gearing up in rural Ohio. WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.
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Buggies vs. big trucks
The clippety-clop of Amish buggies is a common sound of spring in eastern Ohio.  But now the green hills are rumbling with other conveyances: massive trucks—and often they are on the same narrow farm-country tracks as the buggies. 

Harry Horstman is a life-long resident of Scio near the Harrison County, Carroll County line. Trucks hauling water, sand, steel pipe, and whole drilling rigs to gas & oil sites are rolling in there in increasing numbers; even trucks hauling limestone to pave a full square mile of the valley west of Scio for a giant processing plant known as a 'fractionator.' “They had a hundred trucks a day hauling. And they had five trips a day, each of ‘em. So they had 500 loads of stone a day for two months.”

Lay of the land
Horstman says there’ve been no serious incidents involving locals and frac-trucks so far. But he is concerned because the local terrain of rolling hills causes the roads, especially the smaller and more remote ones, to have hidden spots. Dips a buggy can be hidden from few in when a big vehicles is approaching from the rear.

Fast forward
Sheriff Dale Williams in Carroll County is concerned too. Partly by the sheer volume of new activity of all kinds in the once quiet and thinly populated area, as evidenced by computer records of overall calls to his department. Looking at the first four months of each of the past few years, in the pre-drilling and early drilling years of 2010 and 2011 call levels were at about 10,000, then with the boom the same time period in 2012 showed more than 24,000 calls and nearly 50,000 came in for the first four months of 2013.

Amish
Jacob Miller is a young Amish farmer who was hitching up his buggy for a trip in to town. He didn’t want to be recorded or directly quoted, but he said he’s seen no reckless or even fast driving by big rigs and complimented the frac-truck drivers on generally being courteous. But, he too said the winding, narrow roads, and “snap over” hills that Harry Horstman mentioned do pose a problem.

Very practical problems
On a tour of one of the regions popular bike paths, the Conotton Creek Trail between Scio and Jewett in Harrison County, Harry Horstman (who is chairman of the committee that  oversees the 12 mile trail) talked about an idea to widen it for use by buggies, as a way of getting them off the main road between the villages.

But, the trail committee held a public meeting on the idea and it didn’t get off the ground…so to speak. “It isn’t that they were against the Amish, but they didn’t want to have to navigate around the horse manure.”

Horstman and other locals later talked with the company building the massive new plant in the valley and got permission to use a part of its access road system to re-route buggies from the main highway to Scio onto a township road that is little traveled by trucks.    

Carroll County Sheriff Williams has begun taking another approach to protecting slow moving vehicles and in general to handling a dramatically increasing load of police and public safety issues. “I added to traffic deputies, and a detective and we are hoping with next year’s budget that the commissioners will let us extend that.”

Just a lot of people
Trucks are not the only new traffic issues for small rural communities caught up the Utica Shale play. Crews of all sorts--drillers, pipeline diggers, power line installers,etc. are hard at it in much of Carroll, Columbiana and Harrison Counties. For example, while the half-billion-dollar fractionator (when completed it will be more than a mile long) is under construction in the valley between Scio and Jewett, 700 to 1,000 workers, a number approximately equal to the population of the two villages combined, are coming and going each day. 


Related WKSU Stories

Muskingum Watershed formalizes the rules for selling water for fracking
Friday, May 17, 2013

Ohio says shale drilling is starting to pay big returns
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shale oil downturn doesn’t change activists' minds on fracking tax
Thursday, April 25, 2013

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