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Local News

February 16, 2014

Empire residents organizing to fight water request

EMPIRE — Homeowners in Empire are organizing renewed opposition to a request from their rural water district to pump more water out of the ground.

The proposal has stirred fears their water wells will run dry if  the Oklahoma Water Resources Board approves the permit request from Stephens County Rural Water District No. 3, said Matt Milam, a mail carrier who  is helping organize opposition.

Two wells in the area already have run dry, said Milam, and another landowner recently said she has noticed sand in the water she gets from her water well.

“We’re having our water taken and there are no alternatives here,” said Milam. “We have no Plan B.”

Milam and other organizers have called for a meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Empire Community Center to organize opposition. The water withdrawal issue has been an ongoing controversy for three years as southwest Oklahoma remains in a four-year drought.

David Perkins, manager of the water district, said the water request is based simply on demand.

“We don’t have enough water to meet the demand we have in the summertime,” he said.

Perkins declined further comment, saying the water district’s board has asked him not to speak about the matter.

Perkins did, however, assert the amount of water requested is 350,000 gallons per month.

Milam said the water district wants to pump an addition 7.8 million gallons a year from the ground.

Milam and other opponents want residents to mail certified letters of protest to the state water resources board and to show up for meetings of the state board in Oklahoma City.

“It’s going to take people, not just a petition,” he said. “They’ve got to be there and be seen.”

State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, said he plans to attend the meeting in Empire on Sunday.

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