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Well site restoration to mark milestone near Comanche

A milestone is about to be reached in Stephens County.

The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) cleans up and restores abandoned and orphaned oil and gas well sites across the state and soon will complete its 16,000th restoration south and east of Comanche.

According to Steve Sowers, the OERB's environmental director, the site on land owned by Gladys Davis probably dates back to the drilling of an oil well in the 1930s or 1940s. Back in those days and for some time afterward, he explained, when producers opted to plug a well and leave it they often left behind concrete rubble and other refuse and land generally in rough condition. Erosion then would set in and make things worse over a period of years or even decades.

The OERB uses money contributed by companies in the oil and natural gas industry to carry out cleanup work. To date, in Stephens County alone a total of 592 sites have been restored at a cost of $3.9 million. There have been 33 sites restored in Comanche County at a cost of around $153,000.

Work typically includes hauling away debris and then "blending and contouring" the land to restore it to pasture or even to accommodate a stock pond.

Not far from the latest work site in Stephens County just such a pond was put in on land owned by Brent Morgan. He described what used to be there, an old saltwater pit with heavily eroded "raw dirt," as not only "really ugly" but even as a potential hazard to his Angus cattle. He said he was a little doubtful at first when the OERB offered a few years ago to clean the site up and make it useful again  at no cost to him. "But it didn't cost me a penny and they did a good job," Morgan said. "Now, it's a lot better for cattle. It gives them fresh water to drink and they're not apt to fall off into the pit."

Morgan said OERB officials even asked him about additional places on his land that they might have missed in their initial assessment, and they ended up cleaning additional locations as well. Typically, a site cleanup might cost in the neighborhood of $5,000, but work on his place took about a $60,000 investment in all by the OERB.

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