U.S. Water News Online
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Water Resources Board
approved a scaled down version of a request to use a billion gallons
of water from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer to irrigate a pecan
orchard in Sulphur.
After a brief executive session, five board members voted in favor
of a temporary permit to allow Carolyn Hunt Sparks of Sulphur to use
up to 1,800 acre feet (586 million gallons) annually to water 800
acres of pecan trees. The permit must be renewed in a year.
An administrative law judge who heard the case earlier this year
recommended the board approve the request.
The board members' decision encompasses conflicts between old
water usage laws and a newer measure approved by the Legislature in
2003 that limits use permits if the proposed use would harm the
Legislators drafted the measure in an effort to protect the
springs and creeks fueled by the aquifer.
The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer underlies more than 500 square miles
in south-central Oklahoma and is a principal source of drinking water
for an estimated 39,000 Oklahomans.
Under old law, property owners can use up to 2 acre feet of water
for every acre of land they own, if the use of the water is
Using this interpretation, Sparks, who owns nearly 1,600 acres of
land in Johnston County, would have been entitled to almost double
the amount of water approved.
Her attorney, former water board Executive Director James Barnett,
said he wasn't sure whether his client would appeal the case.
"We haven't had an opportunity to really review the order yet, so
it is too soon for us to say for sure whether additional action is
needed," Barnett said.
The Sparks permit was the first Arbuckle-Simpson groundwater
permit request to be considered since the Legislature approved the
law in 2003.
Numerous environmental groups opposed Sparks application,
including the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. Those groups claimed Sparks' proposed permit would harm the
aquifer and its springs, streams and rivers.
Attorney Jason Aamodt, who represented rancher John Bruno of
Tishomingo in a fight against Sparks' request, said his client is
also considering whether the board's decision should be appealed in
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