Amid all the hype Pickens’ windmill plan has gotten, the interesting part — the water part — has been mostly ignored, except for an excellent Business Week story by Susan Berfield and a column by Steve Milloy.
Roberts County, Texas, sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, a huge underground reservoir that stretches all the way to South Dakota. It’s in Roberts County that T. Boone Pickens set aside eight acres from his ranch for drilling deep into the aquifer.
Then he turned this parcel into a town, basically, with only two eligible voters — both of whom were his employees. (This required a change in Texas law in 2007 — a change facilitated no doubt by his $1.2 million in campaign contributions to Texas legislators in 2006).
Then there was an election in this district, in which both voters voted to make this 8-acre municipality a special fresh-water district.
Pickens’ wholly owned government entity now can issue tax-free bonds (meaning he can borrow at a serious discount) and use the power of eminent domain to pressure landowners to sell — or to take their land if they hold out. The eminent domain power is key to building the pipeline that will run this water down to the Dallas area, where Pickens hopes to sell the water. If your land lies in the path of his proposed pipeline, you got a letter explaining that T. Boone wants to buy a stretch of your land — and explaining that he can use eminent domain if you resist. If this begins to sound too cutthroat to the public, Pickens just reminds journalists and politicians that following this water pipeline will be the transmission cables for Pickens’ mammoth wind farm.