Electronic Field Guide » Pre-Development Issues » Controlling Site Activity

Prepared by Patrick Drohan (Ecosystem Science and Management)

If incorrectly executed, construction activities can increase erosion and runoff, disturb off-site habitat, degrade streams, and limit the effectiveness of reclamation following development. One way to ensure that long-term land management goals are met is to develop a list of on-site and off-site factors that development may affect or influence and develop contingency plans to deal with various potential scenarios before they occur.  For example, off-site factors, such as seasonal rainfall, may result in differing amounts of surface runoff, which, in conjunction with a site’s steep topography (an on-site factor), may cause erosion.  
When generating a list of such factors, use a map of the proposed pad and infrastructure development in association with maps of topography, surface hydrology (streams, ponds, wetlands, etc.), vegetation cover, historic features, and existing infrastructure (roads, outbuildings, above- and belowground utilities).  For example, is there a unique forest habitat—perhaps an interior core area of forest that supports a specific population of birds, or an ephemeral wet area that is a habitat for migrating amphibians?  Following identification of such sensitive areas, planners can examine ways to adjust site layout as requested by a company, lease negotiation, landowner, or manager.  Ideally, activities should be clustered to minimize surface disturbance, and activities should be timed to try to avoid conditions that could exacerbate site risks.
Example on-site factors

  • Topography (slope, aspect, elevation, slope shape [convex, concave, linear])
  • Vegetation cover and type
  • Type of soil (USDA soil series) and underlying bedrock (strike and dip)
  • Surface hydrology (streams, ponds, wetlands)
  • Subsurface hydrology (depth to the water table)
  • Seasonal air temperature and precipitation patterns
Example off-site factors
  • Surrounding land use
  • Distance to sensitive habitats
  • Direction and steepness of slopes, and their length to surrounding properties
  • Traffic patterns
  • Adjacent cultural and social features (e.g., schools, churches, medical facilities, parks)
Next, obtain or develop a potential schedule of activities for infrastructure development. This schedule should identify the phases of the project and specify when over the course of a year specific activities will occur. For example, it is important to note periods of the year when soils may be excessively wet, and if worked incorrectly, could result in excessive erosion or compaction.  Conversely, note dry periods when dust may pose a problem.  Much of what a landowner can request depends on lease arrangements developed during negotiation, and whether the landowner even owns the mineral rights to the property.  Therefore, it is important that landowners carefully review contracts with an attorney experienced in gas drilling leases prior to signing and consult with municipal, state, and/or academic information sources to help clarify questions they may have.