Kiamichi River Journey
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By Debbie Leo
On September 25, 2020, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board Hearing Examiner delivered his determination to nine protestants fighting against the Tomlin Energy, LLC closed-loop storage facility along the upper region of the Kiamichi River.
The Hearing Examiner’s determination, addressing the three pertinent requirements for permitting 33,000 acre feet of water from the Kiamichi River, was in favor of granting the permit.
These three requirements for determination are, the availability and amount of stream water for appropriation, a present need for water from the Kiamichi River coinciding with any beneficial use provided by the project and any potential interference with domestic use and prior appropriated uses to downstream users.
During the hearings, the protestants were unable to introduce expert witnesses to dispute the Oklahoma Water Resources Board hydrologists findings, enough runoff water for the project. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board data model used for this determination was from the 1980’s.
The protestants could not introduce experts on the subject of appropriative use, present and future need to keep the overflow water in the Kiamichi River for uses by communities downstream, or introduce an expert witness from the Oklahoma or U.S, Fish and Wildlife to determine the environmental cost to the wildlife and ecology of the Kiamichi River system. The costs to hire expert witnesses, prohibitive.
We could not dispute the data from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board regarding the amount of overflow water flowing through the Kiamichi River because there is no way to measure that amount of water.
If there is no standard in place to measure exactly 33,000 acre feet of overflow water yearly, one must wonder how it can be accomplished for this permit and who will be responsible to do the monitoring? It is an interesting take on what the responsibilities of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board are and just how they will monitor this overflow water.
Once again, the question is who will and how will the water be monitored if this permit is granted?
Tomlin Energy, LLC. and the Hearing Examiner have consistently stated there will be “no diversion” of water from the Kiamichi River, while consistently stating in all the filings that water will be “diverted” from the river.
The word “flummoxed” comes to mind. That will, no doubt, be on the protestants minds when we address our concerns before the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The continuation of this debate and protest will conclude before the Oklahoma Water Resources Board on October 20th, 2020, at 9:30 A.M. in Oklahoma City. The protestants will have one last opportunity to encourage a different result from this project’s application for stream water.
We seek a denial of the permit. If the vote is for the permit, it will be one more affront to the life of the Kiamichi River and will succeed in assuring the river’s demise.
The protestants have provided a united front to stop another bad decision that will put the intermittent stream river, the Kiamichi, under extreme circumstances, not just for the people residing in the region, but the entire ecosystem.
Potentially catastrophic to the health and well-being of the river downstream from the planned site. The generation of electricity will be a boon for the state, but for the region of the Kiamichi River Basin, a less than optimum outlook for the environment within the basin.
The State of Oklahoma has passed water laws, created a board (Oklahoma Water Resources Board) to oversee those water laws and, from past experience, granted permits by using those laws without the use of up-dated, current scientific studies.
Our laws need to be rewritten to reflect the current state of water flowing though the Kiamichi River Basin. The effects to our way of life, our ecosystem, our recreational economic future is going to change dramatically by granting this permit.
It may be that we are seeing our future written by past, not present data and laws. We must continue to challenge these state laws to prove Oklahoma water laws are out-of-date and no longer reflect the truth of flow of water through the Kiamichi River, now, in 2020.
Up-dating with science through the legislative branch, voting in people who choose to be protective of Oklahoma’s natural resources, voting out those who have no vision for the diverse ecology, bought by corporate interests and selling us out to the highest bidders.
Case-in-point, this project is expected to cost $1.5 billion dollars to build out. Taxes from the project, expected to bring in $10-12 million dollars annually for schools and such to Pushmataha County. It won’t help the county if the people who live here can no longer exist here. No water, no life.
Is Oklahoma ready to take on a project of this size in this region of the Kiamichi River? Time after time, the people of the Kiamichi River Basin have been under siege for the water we happen to have. To fight for our rights to keep it here has been daunting over the last 30 years.
If not Texas, then Oklahoma City or Tomlin or Canada. It will continue as water becomes the new “gold standard”. How the Kiamichi River will prevail is the real question, no answers forthcoming at this time.