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MWCD May Consider Reducing Assessment Fee
Posted on: 06/11/2013
By  Andy Rex
With the oil and gas leases the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has signed for lands, officials are looking to see if the assessment fee implemented in 2009 could possibly be reduced.
 
District spokesman Darrin Lautenschelger says “(the Board of Directors) have directed the staff to look at developing a formula or a plan that would look at the upcoming potential royalties from the leases that have been signed on district property for the Utica Shale development.  They’ll determine then if there’s an amount great enough to help offset some of the assessments that are paid.  The assessment is paid by about 500,000 owners of property in the region, and it collects about $11 million annually.  Any type of reduction would be involving the amount of royalties that are collected by the conservancy district.  Then, there would be a determination on how much could be reduced based on that collection of royalties.”
 
Assessment fee dollars are used as the local match for work needed at dams and reservoirs in the district at a total cost of more than $600 million.  The district is providing about 20 percent of the total cost.
 
And Lautenschelger says some of the less expensive projects that come from the assessment fees are already underway.  
 
“Work has been done at the MWCD reservoirs for shoreline protection and erosion control," Lautenschleger explains.  "A dredging program will begin as early as next year.  We’ve been able to partner with communities for projects that help reduce flooding and improve water quality.  We’ve actually partnered in Washington County with the Soil and Water Conservation District for a number of items from an educational standpoint and in projects on the ground.”
 
As for the bonus payments received for signing the leases, Lautenschelger says those dollars are being used for capital improvement projects at district facilities for recreation and public access.
 
Lautenschleger stresses that these are just preliminary discussions about possibly reducing the assessment.  No action will be taken at least until next year, with any reduction – if approved – not taking effect until 2015.
 
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