Preservation group approves oil well

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 13, 2011

Natchez — The proposed DRAYCO Exploration, LLC oil well operation is one step closer to breaking ground.

The Natchez Preservation Commission approved a revised application from DRAYCO to establish a five-acre oil well operation site on an 81-acre tract of land owned by Fred and Ruth Emrick that fronts Cemetery Road.

Natchez City Planner Bob Nix listed the new provisions of the application at the meeting, which included the oil tank farm being moved out of sight from the road and DRAYCO’s commitment to operate equipment on electric motors, which are quieter than gasoline motors.

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The drilling site has also been moved further away from Cemetery Road. The site’s access road is now an unused road from previous oil operations The oil operation trucks will now access the site coming in from the north and then making a left onto Marblestone Road instead of coming in from the city side of Cemetery Road.

The hours of operation for the site will be 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The noise of the operation must be consistent with city’s noise ordinance code.

The new provisions address several concerns that were raised by the National Cemetery Administration and citizens. The NCA sent representatives to the commission meeting on Sept. 14 to voice concerns about the proposed oil well.

Rex Kern, director of the Natchez National Cemetery, read a letter from the National Cemetery Administration at the meeting that said the administration believed an oil well operation would conflict with the dignity of the veterans’ final resting place at the national cemetery.

Kern said he was thankful reconsiderations had been made to preserve the national cemetery.

“I don’t think we came to be a bur in your pants,” he said. “We just wanted make sure things were taken care of in an appropriate manner.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis addressed the DRAYCO representatives at the meeting on behalf on the residents of Marblestone Road. She said she wanted to make sure DRAYCO worked with the residents to make sure the newly-resurfaced road would not incur any damages that would affect residents.

“I’m very much for this project,” Mathis said. “I want to make sure (residents) do not incur any problems. I want them very well taken care of.”

Mathis also said she was pleased to say the city would be receiving royalties from the oil operation, and the Natchez Board of Aldermen supports the project. She said the board is considering holding the royalties in one fund to be used for projects that might not otherwise be done because of the lack of federal funding, including street repairs and property improvements.

“We anticipate major royalties,” Mathis said.

There were also objections to the operation at the meeting.

Nix read three letters of objection, which he said was not enough to cause the vote to be made by super majority.

Commission member Valencia Hall voted against the approval of the application.

Hall questioned DRAYCO before the vote about the possibility of the noise of the oil operation interrupting funerals at the national cemetery.

Roy Geoghegan, who spoke on behalf of DRAYCO said the company would certainly be willing suspend operations and minimize noise by idling the equipment motors during funerals at the cemetery

Kern said he believed DRAYCO would be very in tune to the cemetery’s needs

Commission member Shirley Petkovsek said the concerns of the city cemetery had been met, and she had given Geoghegan three funeral dates in November that he was willing to work around.

Nix said he will add a provision into the DRAYCO application before it is presented to the planning commission that outlined that DRAYCO must coordinate with the city and national cemeteries to ensure that the noise quieting needs for funerals can be met, as well as ensuring oil equipment truck traffic does not disrupt funerals

The DRAYCO application is scheduled to go for approval before the planning commission on Oct. 20 and the aldermen on Oct. 25.