Business

Iowa DNR to deny permit to export water to western states

Pattison Sand proposed extracting water from underground aquifer to sell to drought-stricken states

Iowa DNR
Iowa DNR

A Northeast Iowa mining company’s request for a permit to draw millions of gallons of water from Iowa’s Jordan Aquifer to export to western states will be denied after the company couldn’t say why the project would be beneficial to Iowans.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources on May 21 sent Pattison Sand Co., a silica sand-mining company near Clayton, a letter stating the DNR planned to deny Pattison a new use permit.

The company proposed drilling a new well near the Mississippi River, loading water into tank cars and selling it to an Oregon company called Water Train, which supplies drought-stricken communities in New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona, the permit application states.

“Pattison has failed to supply the Department with sufficient information regarding the beneficial use of the requested water,” Mark Moeller, DNR Water Supply Engineering supervisor, wrote.

“Please be aware that the department has other potential concerns regarding the scenario posed in the application,” Moeller wrote. “However, the Department must have enough information to complete its beneficial use investigation before it can determine if those concerns are even valid.”

This is the third time Pattison has sought permission to export water from Iowa — an idea that concerns some lawmakers and environmentalists, the Des Moines Register has reported.

Iowa Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said Friday he is glad the DNR has denied Pattison’s permit.

“My primary concern about this is that the water here should be used for Iowans,” he said. Hogg said he thinks the Iowa Legislature needs to strengthen state laws on use of underground water resources to discourage future applications for exporting water.

“I trust the DNR to keep denying these permits until we can address it legislatively,” he said, adding it would be unlikely to come up in an abbreviated legislative session starting next week.

Pattison’s April 22 request was for a permit to drill a new well that would tap the Cambrian-Ordovician aquifer, better known as the Jordan aquifer, which supplies drinking water to much of Iowa and other Midwest states. The aquifer, which can yield from hundreds to more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, recharges quickly in northeast Iowa, where Pattison wanted its new well.

Pattison founder Kyle Pattison told the DNR in an April 22 application the millions of gallons of water that would be drawn by the company and sent west wouldn’t deplete Iowa’s underground water supply because the aquifer at that point drains to the Mississippi River.

“We have a water resource that has no impact on the state of Iowa’s water reserve and if we can export it, it will have a significant positive impact on jobs and economic activity in Northeast Iowa,” Pattison wrote.

The company requested a waiver from the legal requirement that permit applications state how water extracted from underground aquifers would put to beneficial use. The DNR denied the waiver.

Pattison said it was impossible to pinpoint exactly where the water would be used, since Water Train supplies water for “dairy, agricultural, industrial, manufacturing and municipal water needs” in several western states, according to Water Train’s website.

Kyle Pattison did not immediately respond to an email sent Friday morning.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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