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Durant Daily Democrat: Durant did right thing on Tishomingo lawsuit

On behalf of the Citizens for the Protection of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer I want to thank the Durant City Council in supporting the City of Tishomingo’s efforts to hold the mining industry accountable for their impacts and potential devastation of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer.

If you’ve ever been to Turner Falls in Davis or the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, or simply turned on the faucet at your home or business in Durant, the pristine water you’ve enjoyed comes from the same source as that in Tishomingo. It all originates in the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer, the sole source of water for Ada, Sulphur, Tishomingo, Durant and most other communities in South Central Oklahoma.

To truly understand the complexity of the unique water issues for Durant and South Central Oklahoma we need to revisit a little history. In the early 2000s, the area citizens, communities and city councils came together to fight a mass exportation of water out of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer. The aquifer is unique in that the springs and streams emanating from it support the only water sources in the area, most specifically the Blue River and Pennington Creek, as well as Byrd’s Mill Spring, Ada’s water source.

In 2003 the Oklahoma Legislature passed Senate Bill 288. I’ll spare you the details of that actual bill language but know that the most important component was to direct the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to embark on an exhaustive hydrologic study of the aquifer to determine the maximum amount of water that can be pumped without inflicting permanent and irrevocable damage to our springs and streams.

This multi-year, multi-million-dollar study ultimately determined the amount that would allow every landowner in the area an equal share of the groundwater that would not harm their neighbors. No one’s interest outweighs another’s, and everyone must go through the same permitting process. Again, fair and equal.

Unfortunately, there is a glaring exception to this fair and equal process and that would be mining operations. These operations, mining primarily sand, gravel and rock, are able to remove mass quantities of groundwater outside of any meaningful regulatory structure. And in doing so, upend the fairness laid out under Senate Bill 288.

CPASA has worked for years to try to bring this removal of groundwater under some sort of regulatory framework so as not to harm the over 250,000 of us who live and work here and rely on the flows from the Arbuckle Simpson.

We currently have no single state agency accounting for the amount of water being removed by these operations. And those agencies who are involved in the process are permitting these out-of-state interests to remove significant amounts of water without due diligence or consideration of the long-term negative ramifications that these generational decisions produce.

Most of us choose to live in this part of the state because we understand the beauty of the area and the need to protect it for not only aesthetics but also for viability of our continued economic growth. The mining industry looks toward our aquifer as a source of revenue as they truck mass quantities of our rock to build more highways in Texas and do so with little regulation. And unless and until something is done to remedy this, that’s not likely to change.

Now back to the issue at hand. Clearly our city leaders, who have always stepped up over the past two decades to support the effort in any way necessary, understand that what happens to Tishomingo will set the stage for what lies ahead for Durant. Regardless of whether you enjoy all that Tishomingo has to offer, be it trout fishing on the Blue River, going to Ole Red, or taking in the downtown scenery, your interest in Tishomingo is far greater than you probably ever realized. I’m so thankful that our city leaders understand that we’re all in this together and supporting each other is what good neighbors do. I’m confident that Tishomingo will do the same for us when the time comes.

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