Proposed well in Norman draws controversy

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NORMAN, Okla. - Michael Delaney lives in rural northeast Norman, near Rock Creek Road East and Cabin Road.

When he heard about a proposed well being drilled near his home, he started doing research.

“It’s all about the water. Anything that’s drilling above or into or injecting into an area around a layer of our watershed, really we’re 100 percent against that,” Delaney said.

Delaney and close to 50 other residents attended this month’s Board of Adjustment hearing in Norman.

Arrowhead Drilling needs the BOA to approve a variance for their well, because it’s within 300 feet of what’s known as a “stream planning corridor.”

“Which would be the equivalent in a platted property to a water quality protection zone which, as a citizen, you or I or anybody out here cannot even garden necessarily in a water quality protection zone,” said Ward 5 councilwoman Sereta Wilson. “If we set a precedence with allowing a variance here, then what happens on Lake Thunderbird? What happens in Dave Blue Creek?”

“The city should be concerned about the health and safety of their citizens and their water,” Delaney said.

“We created these ordinances for a reason,” Wilson said.

The city council does not get a say in the matter, but Wilson said she’s hoping the Board of Adjustment denies the variance.

In their application for the variance, Arrowhead Drilling said the location is the only option for the drilling of the vertical salt water disposal well bore and the horizontal bore of almost a mile:

 “Under Senate Bill No. 809, a municipality, county or other political subdivision may not effectively prohibit or ban any oil and gas operations. If a variance to the stream planning corridor is not granted, the drilling of the proposed wells will be prohibited.”

Norman city staff have recommended not granting the variance.

“We’ve just been very careful since this ordinance has been adopted. We’ve been pretty consistent in saying that variations from it just aren’t appropriate,” said Susan Connors, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Norman.

The CEO of Arrowhead Drilling tells us he’s surprised by the pushback and the well will not affect anyone’s water supply.

Bill Varner said the spot where they want to drill is in an area where it is perfectly legal for them to do so.

If the Norman Board of Adjustment denies their variance, the company can appeal to district court.