City votes to approve raw water purchase contract in 6 to 1 vote

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 11:13 AM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - After two hours of presentations and discussions between citizens and city leaders, the city council voted six to one to approve the raw water purchase contract, with Steve Jackson voting against it.

Several citizens came forward to the council with their thoughts, and the contract received primarily positive feedback. Three citizens had negative comments, but only one was directly about the contract; the other two were upset about the council not communicating the contract with citizens more promptly.

“We hope that, you know, by bringing everybody in the room today and have the two town hall meetings questions beforehand before making a vote and seems like, room is comprised of you know most people are in in in in favor of this, so I think we’re all the questions answered early so today we’re going to make a good intelligent vote,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said.

The council’s vote today was to amend a 1977 contract with Oklaunion to purchase water from Wichita Falls. The original contract ran for 60 years, but the new one will only run for 40 years, providing more limitations than the previous one.

The water would come from Lake Kemp, water rarely used by the city because it’s “too reactive,” and requires extreme levels of treatment.

“We do need water, but we need usable water; this isn’t water we can use by itself. I think people, we’re missing there’s a disconnect, this isn’t water that we drink from,” candidate for District 4, Samuel Pak said to council.

One misunderstanding addressed about the contract is that it’s not a new contract, but instead an amended one.

Oklaunion’s 1977 contract is still active for the next 14 years.

“They could go out there tomorrow and build another power plant beside the one that’s there and use all 20,000 acres. We’re already obligated to provide that water,” Director of Public Works, Russell Schreiber said.

Despite some public backlash, councilors hope their decision sends the message to industries that they are welcome here.

“They can finally get the 20,000-acre feet of water, we got that contract amended but I think it’s just a huge win for the community, a huge win for the citizens of Wichita Falls,” Mayor Santellana said.