U.S. Water News Online
TISHOMINGO, Okla. -- A Texas mining company can continue to
take water from an Oklahoma aquifer that springs up into quarries in
the Mill Creek area of southern Oklahoma, a judge has ruled.
The ruling, issued by Johnston County District Judge Thomas
Walker, states the Oklahoma Water Resources Board has no authority
over water trapped in mines, although the ruling doesn't say exactly
which agency regulates such water.
Texas-based Meridian Aggregates has a huge operation in the area
over the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer, drilling for rock used in Texas
Walker said the water board lacks authority, in part, because the
company is drilling for stone, not water.
A company official said the ruling upheld "what the statutes
clearly say, which is that the water trapped in a producing mine is
not subject" to the water board's authority.
Company officials said they are pleased overall with the judge's
ruling, said Pete Dawson, a vice president for Meridian Aggregates'
parent company, Martin Marietta.
The ruling stems from the water board's decision last year to let
Meridian Aggregates take 274 acre feet, or 89 million gallons, of
water annually from the aquifer. The quarry is off State Highway 1
between Sulphur and Tishomingo.
The company had sought five times that amount. Opponents,
including nearby ranchers and towns that depend on the aquifer as a
main water source, wanted the company's permit rejected completely.
Both sides appealed the water board's decision.
The company's permit request was the first filed since a 2004 law
placed a moratorium on water transfers from the aquifer.
Water board officials haven't studied the ruling yet. The board
could decide at next month's meeting whether to appeal, agency
spokesman Brian Vance said.
Attorney Chuck Shipley, who represents some opponents to the
Meridian Aggregates' water drilling efforts, claims the company
intentionally drilled for rock in an area where it also could strike
Dawson said no matter what the final outcome is, "We intend to
operate in full compliance with the law. We want to continue to be a
source of employment and tax dollars and run our business for many
years in a sustainable manner."
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