MPGCD, RRC battle over who should fix Lake Boehmer

The fight for who is responsible for Lake Boehmer and its damage continues.
Published: Sep. 3, 2022 at 8:40 AM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KOSA) - Frustrated in their battle with the Railroad Commission of Texas, representatives from the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District took their concerns up the chain of command to the Texas House Committee on Natural Resources.

The hearing provided new information on what is happening beneath the lake’s surface.

“We have absolutely no casing left in the hole,” said MPGCD General Manager Ty Edwards. “There are giant caverns, and all this water is just going out into the aquifers. And it’s only two or three miles from the Pecos River.”

Essentially, the wellbore acts as a highway for toxic water to travel from aquifer to aquifer.

“We do have highly mineralized water with radionuclides above EPA standards flowing up and becoming exposed to the Rustler aquifer, the Dockum aquifer, and the Pecos Valley Alluvium,” said Raymond Straub, the president and principal hydrologist of the Straub Corporation.

The hearing also highlighted the growing tension between MPGCD and the RRC. The RRC says the lake is not its problem since it considers it a water well.

“It has never been an oil and gas well,” said Clay Woodul, the RRC Assistant Director for Oil and Gas Field Operations. “It never will be an oil and gas well.”

That’s not exactly true. Documentation shows that the well, also known as Sloan Blair #1, was drilled for oil and gas but never found it.

Therein lies the controversy: does a hole drilled to find oil and gas back in the 1950s qualify as an oil and gas well if none was ever found?

The MPGCD believes it does since that’s why the hole was drilled. The RRC said it does not because it was converted to a water well.

But the problem has become so expansive that fixing it would be tough for the MPGCD.

“The Groundwater Conservation District was never envisioned to be plugging oil and gas wells,” said MPGCD lawyer Cole Ruiz.

The RRC will receive $300 million from the federal government to plug orphaned wells in the coming years, but fixing Lake Boehmer would be expensive, even by federal standards.

“We’re asking for y’all’s help,” Edwards said to the committee. “If Railroad Commission won’t address these wells they’ve allowed to be drilled, then we need y’all’s help to figure out some kind of funding mechanism.”

Meanwhile, the lake and its damage continue to grow.