By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Oklahoma Water Resources Board today will consider a water permit for the city of Enid on a well that is the subject of a pending civil suit.
The city of Enid has applied for 640 acre feet per year in water rights from two wells in Township 21, Range 9 West in Major County. The application, if approved, would give the city rights to almost 209 million gallons of water per year from the 320-acre tract, enough water to fill more than 315 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
One of the two wells under consideration is owned by Elizabeth Rasar and Jean Rasar, who are protesting the water permit. The Rasars also filed a suit against the city last October for more than $75,000, alleging the city has pumped more than 1.4 billion gallons of water from the well on their 80 acres of land since 1985 without a valid permit from OWRB.
According to court records filed in the case, the city of Enid in 1952 signed a lease agreement with the previous landowners to drill a well and produce an unspecified amount of water each year.
The Rasars contend in their suit the city violated that 1952 lease by failing to continuously produce from the lease between 1952 and 1979, and by not paying a $1,000 drilling fee to the previous landowners for the current well, drilled as Drummond No. 33 in 1985.
According to correspondence provided by the Rasars’ attorney, Michael Bigheart, OWRB notified the city of Enid in June 2011 that it did not have a permit to produce water from the disputed well.
The OWRB letter, dated June 21, 2011, stated: “Continued use of the well without obtaining a permit is in violation of state law.”
The city subsequently filed the permit application, which is under consideration today.
Bigheart said the lawsuit deals with past pumping from the well, and is “a separate issue to some extent” from the pending permit.
“The lawsuit is not impacted substantially by whether the water resources board grants the city a water permit or not,” Bigheart said. “Whatever happens at the water resources board is not going to cause the lawsuit to go away.”
Bigheart said his clients will oppose the proposed permit at today’s OWRB meeting on the grounds the permit would violate the original 1952 water conveyance signed between the city and the previous landowners.
“That 1952 water conveyance allows the owners to take as much water as they want,” Bigheart said, but the 640 acre feet per year requested by the city would be the maximum permissible pumping from the land on which the two wells sit.
“Really, this permit doesn’t allow the owners to get the benefit of the (1952) agreement,” Bigheart said.
“My clients’ position is just that the city should not be awarded with a permit by the water resources board for illegally operating a well for 27 years,” Bigheart said. “We’ll see if the water resources board feels the same way or not.”
Bigheart said OWRB could make a determination on the water permit today, or, more likely, the board could table the permit application for further review.
The city of Enid did not comment by press time.