Engineer Randy Smith says discussions he's had with two gas and oil well drilling companies expected to drill in Trumbull County were not ''pro-fracking or anti-fracking discussions, it was simply how do we protect our roads and bridges,'' he said.
Both companies indicated activity related to hydraulic fracturing could begin in the next 30 to 45 days, meaning heavy machinery and trucks rolling over roads, bridges and culverts is soon to follow.
To prepare, there's a model roadway use and maintenance agreement in place that the county, cities, villages and townships in the county can use to make sure ''at the end of the day ... our roads and bridges are left in the condition they were found in,'' Smith said.
Newton Township Trustee Peter Augusta, center, and other township trustees from Trumbull County listen to county Engineer Randy Smith on Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Wednesday during a roadway use meeting. Officials from around the county are preparing for an influx of trucks and other heavy-vehicle traffic related to natural gas well drilling.
On Wednesday, commissioners approved the agreement, and then various officials from around Trumbull County got their shot to review the document.
''If we can get it to work, it will be great,'' Vienna Township Trustee Phil Pegg said.
Drilling companies aren't required to sign off on the agreement, which, in part, calls for operators to post a bond to cover the cost of infrastructure damage caused by activity related to drilling.
How shale drilling could affect local roads, bridges and other infrastructure:
$100,000 to $350,000 - Probable amount of bonds to be posted by drilling companies to possible infrastructure damage
$631,000 - Estimated cost to build one mile of road, 22 feet wide
Added traffic - At drilling site at Warren Sharon Road, Vienna, 550 trucks for site construction; 100 trucks for a horizontal rig; 100 trucks for a vertical rig; 1,600 trucks for fracking; and 25 trucks for pipe construction
Source: Trumbull County Engineer's Office
But at some point, drillers need to comply with legal weight loads in Ohio and be required to get a permit to haul loads greater than the maximum. The $20 permits require bond amounts of $50,000 and $1 million in liability insurance.
''At some point in time, they will have to come to this office and request a bond,'' said Smith, which is when road maintenance and the road use maintenance agreement can be discussed.
The maximum allowed weight for a tractor trailer is 80,000 pounds. Drilling rigs can weigh about 100,000 pounds and more, Smith said.
To make sure companies are following the weight limit rules, there have been talks about buying a portable scale and designating a Trumbull County Sheriff's Office deputy to weigh the vehicles.
In addition to bonds, the agreement calls for drillers to provide route descriptions and to upgrade and strengthen roads they use, if documented by an engineering report and then maintain them at the same level. It includes an appendix to address individual community concerns, like requiring drillers to videotape the road before activity begins.
The agreement, said Mark Finamore, Trumbull County Township Association president, is uniform, ''but flexible enough to address the things that you need.''
Bond amounts could be as low as $100,000 for operators who agree beforehand to address infrastructure improvements, based on approved engineering, to accommodate for damage caused by drilling-related activity, to as high as $350,000 or more if circumstances warrant for companies who don't.
It costs about $631,000 to build from scratch one mile of road, 22 feet wide.
So far, Canonsburg, Pa.-based Consol Energy and Carrizo Oil and Gas, out of Houston, have indicated plans to drill in Trumbull County.
In Vienna, Consol Energy plans to drill for oil and gas off Warren Sharon Road near Warner Road and Carrizo has had discussions with the county about drilling off of Ridge Road, also in Vienna and off Hayes Orangeville Road in Hartford.
Both indicated some activity could happen as soon as in the next 45 days. Drilling permits for these sites have not been issued, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Consol provided the county with a detailed engineering report analyzing Warren Sharon Road, where the site will be located, and roads leading to the site.
It provides a glimpse of the traffic that will be created by drilling there: 550 trucks for site construction; 100 trucks for a horizontal rig; 100 trucks for a vertical rig; 1,600 trucks for fracking; and 25 trucks for pipe construction throughout the operation.
Finamore says he is putting together an information packet for trustees on what townships can do regarding the regulation of gas and oil wells.
Ohio law, according to Finamore, allows townships to regulate public health and safety at well sites. What they are allowed to do is require drillers to register with the township, erect a fence around the well head and storage tanks, display emergency contact information and ensure the access road is built to accommodate emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances.
All other regulations rest with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.