Marathon sends rep to clear path for map

Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2002

About 60 Sterling residents made some noise Thursday night at an informational meeting to discuss Marathon Oil Company's plan to use dynamite and vibrating tools to seismically map the underground structures of the area.

Western Geco, the contractor who will carry out the project for Marathon, presented its plan to residents and addressed various concerns about seismic mapping.

Western's operations manager John Davis told the group the company has a good track record in the area, and that seismic mapping is a relatively benign process that will leave underground property -- such as wells -- largely unaffected.

Davis pointed out that similar work was done in Kenai in 1995, without any negative consequences to property owners or the environment.

"We didn't have any problems with them," Davis said.

He assured skeptical residents that if a well was somehow affected by the mapping, Western Geco would be responsible for fixing it.

"You've got my word that if we screw up your well, we're going to fix it," he said.

Many in the crowd were skeptical of the company's assurances. Several wondered aloud what the benefits to property owners would be to let the mapping project take place, and several complained that the $45 an acre being offered to use property for the project was unfair.

Davis answered those concerns by stating that if gas is found beneath Sterling, the entire community will eventually benefit.

"We all use (natural gas). It will be a big advantage to all of us," he said, noting that if Marathon discovers oil or natural gas reserves, more jobs will be available for peninsula residents.

The proposed project will map roughly 36 square miles of land, mainly to the northwest of the confluence of the Kenai and Moose rivers.

According to a Western Geco Power point presentation, the company plans to have 2,271 source points that will transmit data through a series of 7,583 receiving points. That data will then be compiled and used to gain a better perspective of subsurface formations in the area.

Underground dynamite will be used in outlying areas, while large vibrating machines will be used to shake the ground along the road system.

Davis said the dynamite charges would be small and unobtrusive to nearby residents, and that the company would not do any blasting within 300 feet of existing structures or wells.

"We're not going to be shaking your house down," he said, responding to a question about the disturbance the project will have. "It would be smaller than any earthquake you ever felt."

However, despite all of Western's assurances, some in the crowd said they'll never give the company permission to map their property. Davis said that could lead to a less accurate map of the area, but the company had no intention of disobeying residents' wishes.

"We won't go on your property without your permission," he said.

Surveying for the project is scheduled to begin this week. If all goes well, Western Geco will begin drilling holes Oct. 16, with actual recording operations set to begin in February. Davis said the entire project should be complete by spring.

"Hopefully by mid-April we'll be done," he said.

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