Middle Pecos Board Denies Permit for Fort Stockton Holdings

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

FORT STOCKTON - After years of fighting over water in Fort Stockton, Clayton Williams and his company, Fort Stockton Holdings, have lost the battle to pump water out of Pecos County.

Williams was trying to get a permit to pump water from his land in Pecos County to Midland but he didn't get the answer he was waiting for.

Friday marks what is sure to go down in history for the city of Fort Stockton and Pecos County.

The Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District Board met to discuss and decide the fate of a permit that Williams' company wanted.

The city and county, along with several others, fought hard opposing the permit but Fort Stockton Holdings fought just as hard. But after Friday's decision, the fight could still go on.

"Our primary responsibilities include protecting and preserving water supply for our district, our area," Paul Weatherby, general manager for the Middle Pecos District, said.

The Middle Pecos board voted to deny Fort Stockton Holdings the permit they so desperately wanted.

"We're truly disappointed," Ed McCarthy, attorney for Fort Stockton Holdings, said. "We had a project that we believe will help provide water to this region and do so in a way that's protective of the aquifer and protective of all other users."

Oilman Clayton Williams' company lost the battle to pump water from Pecos County into another water district in Midland.

Friday's unanimous decision wraps up years worth of fighting. Or does it?

"We're going to go back and evaluate all of our options," McCarthy said. "We would have to file a request for reconsideration."

During Friday's special meeting, board members shot down Williams' request saying the data and models presented weren't accurate.

Another reason, members said, the constantly changing application.

"Everything did change. They would change their application over and over and over," Melanie McKenzie, attorney for a landowner, said. "Even in their closing arguments, they changed their application so I think that board member was right on when she said that they didn't have their ducks in a row."

But Fort Stockton Holdings said that's not true.

"It was not the fact that we didn't have our ducks in a row," McCarthy said. "It was that we were asked to provide information or to satisfy requirements that were not part of the district's rules."

The company argues recent cutbacks in water supply shows how critical the need is.

"C'mon, common sense tells you you're not going to have any water after a while," resident Sherry Gray said. "It doesn't take an engineer to understand that. We have no plan or no desire to hurt anyone, but we certainly don't want to line someone's pockets."

"We all need water," McKenzie said. "Fort Stockton and Pecos County are always willing to share but that's not what this case was about."

Depending on the outcome of an appeal, the case could then go to district court.

But for now, the winners in this fight said they're confident the decision will stand.

"Hopefully Fort Stockton will withstand a lot of water marketers trying to market the water out here at the detriment of human way of life," McKenzie said.