Water Quest: Odessa's Water Project In Jeopardy 9/26/13
CBS 7 News
September 26, 2013
FORT STOCKTON, TX - It's a multi-million dollar project that's been stopped in its tracks because two cities cannot come to an agreement. The City of Odessa and Fort Stockton are working together to search under Pecos County for a long-term water source but the two cities cannot come to an agreement on a contract and the struggle has hit a boiling point.
A joint meeting was held Tuesday in hopes of ironing out the details and signing a contract but that was far from what happened. Both cities are digging in their heels and waiting for the other to budge.
Fort Stockton approached Odessa months ago, offering a joint project to solve long-term water needs for Odessa. Odessa would put up $3-million to test groundwater.
"What they need is the City of Odessa's money to drill these wells and prove up the water quality and the water quantity," said Richard Morton, City Manager, City of Odessa.
If the tests met expectations, Odessa would build a pipe and purchase water from Fort Stockton. The first test came back indicating the water is good quality but now a test needs to be done to determine if there's enough water and before Odessa puts up the rest of the $3-million, they want an official contract.
"We will do that but we think the City of Fort Stockton needs to have some risk also," said Morton.
Odessa is first asking for Fort Stockton to reimburse their money if there is not enough water but Fort Stockton says they do not have the money. Second, Odessa wants to be assured they will have access to up to 50 million gallons per day for 100 years. A request Fort Stockton Mayor William Lannom says is out of the question.
"You want us to reserve 50,000,000 gallons per day for 100 years, give me a break, that's not right," said Mayor William Lannom, City of Fort Stockton.
Mayor Lannom says the water district who has to approve the permit to take water out of the ground will never approve that massive amount. He says that should be no surprise to Odessa City Manager Richard Morton.
"He was told by a county judge that we're not going to apply for 50,000,000 gallons and if he didn't listen or didn't care, it's not my problem," said Mayor Lannom.
But Odessa wants to make sure they will get a return on their nearly $200-million infrastructure investment.
"Were not going to spend money to develop the water source if there is no guarantee that we will have access to the water source," said Morton.
“You have to admit it's a big risk,” asked Robert Guaderrama, the reporter.
"Yes, there are two phases to this, one is the risk and the other is reward and we’re in the risk phase, that's never been a question. It’s Odessa’s decision, not our, they know what we want to do,” said Mayor Lannom.
"Maybe the two cities have different expectations and they're just not the same and if that's true we really don't have a good partnership do we?" said Mayor Lannom.
If a contract can be agreed-on, the next step is drilling a test well to verify the quantity of water. If no agreement, Odessa City officials say they have other long-term water options.