District planned to track fracking water use

Published 12:11 am Monday, October 27, 2014

LIBERTY (AP) — Amite and Wilkinson counties plan a two-county water district to oversee the use of billions of gallons of water that will be needed for hydraulic fracturing at oil wells.

The Amite County Board of Supervisors hosted a public hearing Friday to tell residents about the plan.

“We want to do two things: We want to make sure the well does not run dry, and we want to benefit the public whose land this is taking place on,” board president Jackie Whittington said.

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If approved, officials said, it would be the nation’s first public water management district created only because of hydraulic fracturing.

The district would not control municipal or rural water services but could seek access to their water.

Attorney Michael Caples, who helped create the plan, said it calls for oil companies to put up money to form the district, then pay it for access to water and for recycling wastewater.

Engineers at Friday’s hearing suggested a surcharge on every gallon of water provided for fracking.

Oil companies are worried about water, Whittington said: “Everyone I’ve talked to is. It’s their missing ingredient. It’s what has held them back from more drilling.”

The district would cover all of Wilkinson and Amite counties. Supervisors from each county would appoint three representatives to a board of commissioners. The board of supervisors would oversee the commission and retain the right to remove its members.

Regardless of the number of wells in either county, the counties would split all revenue evenly, Caples said.

Supervisor Max Lawson said landowners should be able to sell water on their land directly to oil companies.

“No one is going to tell me I can’t work with the companies on my own. It’s my land,” he said.

Caples said, “Landowners would have to go through the district first, but under this plan, there would always be the guarantee of water.

With the treatment plant, the district would be able to provide a constant stream of water to landowners.”

Engineers and officials also indicated that Pike County may be invited to join the district.

Wells in the area must have water, Amite County Chancery Clerk Ronny Taylor said, adding, “Who will control it will determine the future of Amite, Wilkinson and potentially Pike counties.”