Residents showed up in force to a town hall meeting Friday to voice their objection to a lawsuit fueled by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s stance on water policy involving the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer. The bureau has filed a lawsuit stopping the implementation of Senate Bill 288, which sets the maximum allowable yield from the aquifer. The bill was approved following a 10-year effort to determine the best way to preserve the aquifer.
“They have filed a lawsuit on the yield,” Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) said. “They question the science behind it. There is a group of high-dollar corporations behind the lawsuit. They don’t have an interest in the aquifer, they want to exploit it.”
Simpson said part of the frustration is the bureau has not produced its own science.
“If you are going to question the science, you should have your own,” he said.
Over 400 people attended the meeting in Ardmore, and many of those had several questions and statements made on behalf of producing the significant water source for southern Oklahoma.
“I was extremely pleased with the turnout,” he said. “I was expecting 200 people and I thought that would be great.”
Among those in attendance was Bob Donaho of Davis, who said the local legislators in the area understand the problem.
“No water, nobody lives here,” he said. “It is that simple.”
Simpson said the Oklahoma Farm Bureau was initially involved in the study but stepped back from it and failed to take the opportunity to present its issues with the maximum allowable yield.
“That is what is so disappointing,” Simpson said. “There were plenty of opportunities to voice objections on the public hearing phase.”
Monica Wilke, Oklahoma Farm Bureau Executive Director, spoke on behalf of the bureau’s stance, noting the issue is about property rights. She said SB 288 included language that said there would be no out of basin transfers until the maximum allowable yield was established, which has occurred. She said members of the bureau decided the way the yield was established resulted in a 90 percent loss of property rights.
“I’m not a scientist, I manage the day-to-day operations of the company and work for our board of directors, which work for you.
“Property rights are where we stand. If they (members) tell us to stop it, that is what we are going to do. This was a directive from our membership.”
Former Sen. Johnny Crutchfield was also one of those speaking on behalf of aquifer preservation, noting that not everybody was not happy with SB 288, which is what compromise means and the study was comprehensive and extensive.
“The bottom line is agreements were made and usually you go forth from that point and work together,” he said. “But what happened is a number of people that didn’t like it, have continued to work and try to do what is happening right now, try and make changes, after the fact, after the agreements, after the work, after the money to get it where they want it. It is kind of a backdoor entrance policy.”
He also said you have some huge conglomerates involved and Farm Bureau is being peeled off of the people they are supposed to represent which makes for a weak group.
“I would like for Farm Bureau to consider that they represent a whole lot of rural people that depend on their water sources, and their ability to utilize it,” Crutchfield said. “It would be nice if they represented those people instead of the big boys in Oklahoma City and Tulsa that want to make the money off of it at our expense.”