To understand the risks and benefits of developing natural gas in Garrett County, one has the understand the fabric of the area, its people, and its economy.
Garrett County forms the northwestern edge of Maryland and is characterized by steep, mountainous ridges and stream valleys. It is the western most county and is bordered on the north by Pennsylvania, on the west and south by West Virginia (Figure II-1). The county is rural with a total land area of 423,678 acres and a population of 30,097 persons as recorded by the 2010 Census.
Garrett County contains eight incorporated towns: Accident, Deer Park, Friendsville, Grantsville, Kitzmiller, Loch Lynn Heights, Mountain Lake Park and Oakland.
Garrett County is the home of the Adventure Sports Center, the world’s only mountaintop whitewater course. The County has over 76,000 acres of parks,lakes and publicly accessible forestland. I is home to Deep Creek Lake (DCL), Maryland’s largest reservoir with a surface area of 3,900 acres and 68 miles of shoreline and its only alpine ski resort, the Wisp. It is a popular vacation destination causing the population of the County to nearly double during peak summer vacation times.
About 90% or 383,065 acres are assessed as agricultural lands (because the county does not have county-wide zoning). Garrett County has more acres of publicly owned land than any other county in the state. State parks, forests, and wildlife management areas assist in the preservation of approximately 20% of the total acreage. It is one of two counties in the state that has so much protected forestland that is has been exempted from the Forest Conservation Act.
Garrett County is a designated HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business) by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and is home to the Garrett Information Enterprise Center (GIEC), supporting small technology businesses since 2002. Major employers include Garrett County Memorial Hospital, Walmart, Garrett College, First United Bank, Beitzel Corporation, Pillar Innovations, ClosetMaid, Casselmine Mine and Wisp Resort.
The mountainous region of western Maryland is composed largely of folded layers of sandstone, limestone, and other sedimentary rocks. It is divided into three geologic regions: the Appalachian Plateaus Province; the Ridge and Valley Province; and the Blue Ridge Province. The Appalachian Plateaus Province holds layers of sedimentary rock, and deposits of coal and gas. This region, comprised of Garrett and part of Allegany counties, contains most of the highest peaks in the State. These western mountains tend towards coniferous forest coverage, and even contain a number of small peat bogs in the higher altitudes. Although more common to Canada, and more northern latitudes, some bogs are found upon Maryland slopes due to elevation, and the cooler climate. The most notable is the Cranesville Swamp Preserve in western Garrett County. The bog is found at 2,547 feet above sea level. Also within the Appalachian Plateaus Province lies Hoye-Crest of Backbone Mountain, the highest elevation in the State, at 3,360 feet above sea level. Backbone Mountain holds Maryland’s largest surviving remnant of old-growth forest at Potomac State Forest along Crabtree Creek.