If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Debbie Leo
On October 20, 2020, before the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) in Oklahoma City, Tomlin Energy, LLC received their permit to take 33,000 acre feet of overflow water from the Kiamichi River in Pushmataha county.
You may be aware there were citizens from Pushmataha county fighting to stop this taking (appropriation) of water from the Kiamichi, also protesting the building of a large hydroelectric facility to be built along the upper portion of the Kiamichi River at Albion.
We protestants could no more stop this project from going forward than we could stop Oklahoma City from doing similar water appropriations/takings back in 2017.
The three women in attendance for the protestants were less than welcomed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board board members. Many from both side were present via Zoom, an online meeting forum.
A quorum of six represented the OWRB and the vote was 5 to 1, the dissenting vote by Charles Darby representing Southeastern Oklahoma.
It was a case of “deja vu”, a repeat scenario before a different OWRB, allowing the Oklahoma City permit which approving the appropriation or taking of water from the tributaries of the Kiamichi River below Sardis Lake.
Permitting water from Sardis lake reservoir and diverting the accumulated waters from proposed dams at Moyers for Oklahoma City’s sales and use.
Our elected officials, county and state, are promoting the Kiamichi River for industrial purposes, selling off our natural resources to ensure a budget that provides dollars for the county while foregoing the safety and protection of our river systems.
Our Kiamichi River has been labeled “open for business” by the local and state elected officials thinking that money coming to Pushmataha County, along with a few jobs, will be good for the communities here in the region. The Tomlin Energy, LLC project may prove to be less than a money-making proposition.
In the end providing only few long-term jobs and any money promised but uncounted at this time still in question. Our water quality will be affected by this project and any money that may come from this project will not save it.
There were plans set into action many years ago by prior governors and legislators who designed the future of Oklahoma City using water from southeastern Oklahoma to ensure the city’s growth and prosperity.
The men in charge of this concept could not have foreseen the consequences of those plans as they are playing out in today’s political climate. Those old plans, still in use today, are beginning to devastate the future of southeastern Oklahoma.
There was no Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in the day, no oversight to protect our water or our environment, few statutes that would offer protections for the people or the fish and wildlife within those plans.
It was all about Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Water Utilities Trust. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board, as it was structured to be in the 1970’s, less an official board, more a political tool instead.
Working for Oklahoma City, their best “customer” for Oklahoma City’s best interests while leaving huge gaps in the quality of life in places where the state has naturally flowing water, southeastern Oklahoma and presently, the Kiamichi River and Little River basins.
Tomlin Energy, LLC. will be required to meet all standards required by federal agencies, overseen by the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), before they actually build the facility. FERC has strict guidelines, but depending on the politics of the country, the interest of the banking industry, Oklahoma City and any other backing pertinent to the project, those safety measures can be overlooked if politicians pressure in favor of the Tomlin facility.
In a perfect world, all the science necessary to protect the Kiamichi and Little River watersheds would be scrutinized, any design flaws corrected by the agencies who oversee the scientific requirements that must be met.
The FERC and the state may feel this project will be essential to the power grid of Oklahoma. If the project was up to standards, this Tomlin Energy, LLC. project presented as a “green” hydroelectric facility, might pass the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission standards, but questions arise when one looks at the projects overall engineering.
If this project allows any excess water to flow back into the Kiamichi or Little River watersheds, the project as designed, is not green, nor is it a “closed loop” hydroelectric project. Tomlin Energy, LLC. has not met the standards of a “closed loop” project.
A true “closed loop” contains all the pond water on the site, keeping it secure behind high berms, lining the ponds with materials that will stop any leaching from those ponds and never allowing any release of chemically treated water to enter the surrounding environment.
During the board meeting, Tomlin made it clear to discount the chemical use that was suggested during the first hearings, but he clearly has not understood the engineering processes for which he represented.
All hydroelectric projects using water as their medium, key word hydro, uses chemicals to ensure the longevity of any machinery used. When metal parts are exposed to water they suffer from scaling, corrosion and contamination from algae and other microbiological life.
With the use of chemical “cocktails” to protect the expensive equipment, these chemicals save the machinery while adding to the toxicity of the environment, if they are allowed to move off site.
The designed flaws become apparent. To allow any release of chemicals into the rivers, it will not only kill off aquatic life, but any other biological species that drinks, absorbs or otherwise uses any of the water.
Without any expert witnesses to stand up and defend this science, it makes no difference. The proof of this information is there to find, however, without hiring an expert witness to verify the science behind the chemical use in similar facilities, it makes no difference, the end result is a permitting of overflow water from the Kiamichi River and the possibility of contamination to the river system.
Our futures require that we find ways to use green energy, however, the project must be truly green, if we are to survive and thrive.
Our country’s strengths in the areas of environmental protection have been eroded by past and present administrations. The lack of concern for the planet and global warming is falling by the wayside in lieu of making profits, more and more money.
Our legal protections will continue to evaporate like water from a stream or the Kiamichi and Little River. To those who rely on water further east of the Kiamichi River basin, eyes wide open because they will be knocking on your door for your water soon.
The Oklahoma water policies were laid down from the 1940’s to the 1970’s and will continue to erode our rights and our water until we elect people who will fight to change the laws governing water in Oklahoma and bring new visions for how we use, share and preserve our resources.
The almighty dollars that rule our days and nights, our political mistrust and corruption in high places will eventually lead to our destruction if we choose to continue down that path.
The Oklahoma statutes on water across the state must be rewritten to reflect the current conditions as they are now, not 40-50 or more years ago. Until then, we will lose every fight they put before us.
As for me, I will vote out the old to bring in some new, people who will work towards revision of the old statutes that do not address the needs of all the people. Fresh and sound ideas put into action to help our future survive the misuse, for money, of our resources.
The old ways may have been really good back in the day, but the future is now and what we must fight for, our children and their children.
If we continue as we are doing, they will suffer greatly.