City of Lawton officials were told Tuesday the Lawton Water Authority has been approved for a $50 million loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
The OWRB was voting on a request from the water authority (a function of the City Council) that would provide funding to allow the City of Lawton to continue its quest to drill water wells to provide a supplemental raw water source for Lawton.
The water authority voted in May to seek a loan through the OWRB’s Financing Assistance Program, in an amount not to exceed $50 million. OWRB said they were acting on Lawton’s plans to develop a drought resiliency plan by creating an alternate source of water — in this case, drilling more test wells into the Arbuckle-Timbered Hills aquifer under Comanche County to find four more groundwater wells.
The project dates to the city’s decision in 2014 to contract for a feasibility study to identify alternate raw water sources to help the community cope with what was then historic drought. The plan selected for implementation was drilling water wells. To date the city has one successful water well in Henderson Park in southeast Lawton. They are continuing the search for additional wells, to help provide 5 million gallons of water a day, should the need arise.
The council voted in April to allow city staff to advertise for a firm to drill seven new test holes, to help identify those additional wells. City officials said then the funding would be spent on construction of well houses, a conveyance system to bring well water to the southeast water treatment plant for treatment, and a treatment process at the plant to ensure the well water can be used.
Funding from the 2019 Capital Improvements Program will be used to repay the $50 million OWRB loan. Joe Freeman, chief of the OWRB’s financial assistance division, said the authority will save $3.557 million in interest over the life of the 20-year loan.
“This project is for a resiliency plan, which Lawton has been working toward for quite a while,” said Lawton Public Utilities Director Rusty Whisenhunt.
The loan also is one of a series of loans the City of Lawton has obtained in recent months from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for water- and sewer-related projects. Other projects approved by the council include installation of a new waterline along Cache Road, the beginning of a citywide water meter replacement program, and upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.