U.S. Water News Online
WHITE DEER, Texas -- The rights of oilman T. Boone Pickens
and other Panhandle landowners to draw groundwater from Roberts
County will be determined in an administrative law hearing.
The coalition of landowners, collectively known as Mesa Water
Inc., will have to wait at least until September when a judge agreed
upon at a recent meeting will be available to conduct the hearing.
``I would have liked to get further along, but this is as far as
we could get at this time,'' Mike Booth, the attorney for the
Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District, said after the meeting
at the district's offices in White Deer.
Mesa and the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority each have
thirsty customers they wish to serve: The water authority has member
cities in the Panhandle and South Plains; Mesa still is seeking a
buyer, possibly Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, or San Antonio.
At issue in the administrative hearing is a protest filed June 21
by officials with the water authority that contends permit
applications from the Mesa group do not have enough or as detailed
information as the water authority was required to submit to obtain
``What we want is the same level of scrutiny,'' water authority
attorney Doug Caroom said during the meeting. ``We have not said that
we are opposed to any permits for the Mesa folks.''
Pickens, who was not at the meeting, said from his office in
Dallas that a bill passed this past legislative session -- SB2 --
accords all landowners equal treatment and that Mesa landowners
should be treated the same as the water authority.
``That's all we've ever asked for. They don't want us to have what
they've got,'' Pickens said, referring to the water authority and its
water supply. ``I don't think there's any doubt we'll get the
permits. CRMWA knows that's the case.''
One of two attorneys representing Pickens at the meeting, G.
Michael Boswell of Dallas, said he would not rule out filing a
lawsuit prior to the administrative proceeding.
``We're looking at the options,'' he said after the meeting.
The decision to go forward with the hearing, for which no date was
set, came after attorneys for the water authority and Mesa failed to
come to an agreement about the permit protest.
The wait for Mesa is not its first. In February, the conservation
district's board tabled Mesa's permit to transport water because the
applications lacked information about where the water would go and
for what purpose it would be used.
The other Mesa attorney, Mike Powell of Dallas, said the protest
delays plans to pump water from the Ogallala Aquifer to parched
A judgment six years ago by a district court in Potter County made
it clear that landowners own the water rights to their land, Powell
``The groundwater does not belong to the state of Texas. It does
not belong to this board,'' Powell said. ``The landowners object to
this whole process.''
Water authority General Manager John C. Williams said his agency
is concerned that Mesa's water plans could infringe on its production
in Roberts County.
The water authority supplies water to about 500,000 people in the
11 communities it serves.
``Our objective is that our ability to serve our cities is not
hampered or endangered by any permit or the group of permits that
might be issued,'' Williams said.
So far, Mesa has snared more than 150,000 acres of water rights in
Roberts County but has no buyer. Pickens has said 200,000 acres would
be needed for his plan to work.
The water authority's purchase of about 40,000 acres of water
rights in Roberts County set off the rush for water in the county.
Amarillo quickly bought rights to about 70,000 acres.
The conservation district oversees water use issues in a
nine-county area of the Panhandle.
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