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February 18, 2014

Johnson offers help in Empire water battle

EMPIRE — State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, has promised residents of Empire he will be their advocate in their fight against their rural water district’s proposal to drill a new well to remove more water.

Johnson, who met with about 100 Empire residents on Sunday, said he will request that an Oklahoma Water Resources Board hearing be moved from Oklahoma City to Empire so that more residents can attend.

The hearing has not been scheduled yet but the water board has set a March 3 deadline for surface rights landowners to register their protests.

Johnson cautioned the residents he has not heard the water district’s side of the story regarding its request for permission to pump up to 7.8 million additional gallons of water per year.

Curt Howell, a private consulting engineer for Stephens County Rural Water District No. 3, said the Empire residents are overreacting to the proposal.

“They’re scared to death this well is doing to hurt them,” he said. “It’s not a whole lot of water, really.”

While the requested permit seeks approval for up to 7.8 million more gallons of water to be pumped, Howell said a much smaller quantity that amounts of 15 gallons per minute will be taken.

That amount, he said, is roughly what a rural residence would use.

The water is need to stabilize water pressure in the rural water district’s lines, Howell said.

Empire residents who get water from their own private wells instead of from the water district’s supply lines believe the district eventually will take all the water it is permitted to remove, regardless of what the district says now.

Howell, however, said concerned residents who have complained of sand in their water or water wells that have gone dry are the victims of poorly constructed private wells.

In addition, he said, if the new well is permitted by the state water board, it will be drilled to a depth of about 220 feet to access a different, deeper zone of water than a typical private accesses in Empire.


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