Iowa officials again question firm’s plan to export water

Parched land. (Photo by Getty Images)

A northeast Iowa sand mining company’s amended proposal to export water to drought-stricken western states has again drawn criticism from environmental officials.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources already blocked Pattison Sand Co.’s plan earlier. Now, state water officials have notified Pattison that its amended application is incomplete and strays from state rules. Pattison had reduced the amount of water that would be exported, at least at first, but does not have a permit to export water.

Pattison wants to sign a deal with a company that would load water onto trains at the company’s Clayton, Ia., sand mine along the Mississippi River so it could be sold in states with water shortages.

Iowa officials have never approved such a deal. DNR initially ruled the proposal doesn’t meet state law requiring water withdrawals to address “beneficial and use and conservation.” The company contended that the plan is beneficial to western U.S. residents who face water shortages.

In a letter to the company dated March 10, Mark Moeller, state water supply engineering supervisor, wrote that the amended application “is incomplete based on missing required information, as well as some contradictions between the permit and your accompanying supplemental letter.”

Moeller also noted that a new permit, rather than an amendment, would be required for a different use than the original permit indicated. The company has a permit to withdraw water for the sand mining operation, but not for exporting water.

The state geologist and others have raised questions about the wisdom of exporting water from the Jordan aquifer, which serves water supplies across the state.

“A new permit is required for water uses that differ from those currently authorized by an existing permit. Permit modifications are only for instances in which a permittee seeks to maintain the same approved use but alter sources or withdrawal or diversion rates,” Moeller wrote.

Moeller noted that the company had proposed a third Jordan well and would need to lay out the reasons that well is needed. He also requested “specific information on all anticipated water uses and locations of said use, to include the legal descriptions of those locations” for both Pattison and customers buying the Iowa water.

DNR will continue to review the request if all information is provided, Moeller wrote.

Company officials have been contacted via email for comment, but have not responded.