By Derek Frazier
Hughes County residents are protesting a water permit filed in May by two Allen residents that would grant them access to approximately 424 extra acre-feet of groundwater for commercial sale for drilling oil and gas wells.
Greg and Ines Turpin, Allen, have filed a permit with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to amend their groundwater permit, which currently allows them to withdraw 240 acre-feet of groundwater annually for irrigation purposes from two wells located in Hughes County, that would raise their limit to 664 acre-feet of water accessed a year.
According to Sheryl Goodson, Hughes County resident and customer on Hughes County Rural Water District 6, approximately 300 letters of protest of Turpin’s water permit have been submitted to the OWRB. A hearing has been scheduled today in Oklahoma City.
“As you can tell, we are in dire straits,” Goodson said. “One of the problems is that the OWRB gave us approximately two weeks from the time that they notified us of the hearing and the date of the hearing. We have been scrambling to hire an attorney, a geologist and to develop a plan of action. The OWRB has not been agreeable to granting an extension to postpone the hearing in order to give us time to prepare for it.”
Cliff Tatum, Hughes County RWD 6 manager, said the Turpins’ intentions to sell 300 acre feet of water to the oil and gas industry would cost the district just under 100 million gallons annually.
“The problem we have is our aquifer is very small,” Tatum said. “It is actually less than one mile square and extremely shallow. The water district’s water wells are less than 50 feet deep and the water levels are currently approximately 10 feet below where they should be. Depending upon the well, this doesn’t leave but about 15 feet of water that we can utilize to serve approximately 480 families.”
RWD 6 consists of approximately 230 miles of pipe in the southern third of Hughes County. It serves just under 500 families, according to Tatum and an additional water district. If OWRB approves the permit, Tatum said it would affect the wells closest to the community of Gerty, and affect residents close to Allen as well.
Tatum also said water levels have continually declined due to the drought and climatologists have told him the area is in a 10-year dry cycle. “The additional water rights that Mr. Turpin is asking for and the additional water rights that he intends to sell water from could deplete our water supplies that we utilize for our customers domestic use. This will not only affect the water district’s wells, but also the private wells in this area.”
Goodson said residents who have filed a petition are eligible to attend the meeting if they had notified the OWRB in advance.
“This will affect everyone's standard of living, decrease the value of our property and it will be difficult to sell any property without a sufficient supply of water,” she said.
Messages left with the Turpin family were not immediately returned.