The Woodward News

February 9, 2014

Program to clean up abandoned well sites grows

Cathy Johnston
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Various types of makeovers seem to be quite popular these days. Several television programs and websites feature everything from personal face/body makeovers to home and yard makeovers.

Beginning in 1993, ahead of the trend, the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) determined to perform a different type of makeover in our state.  It is a makeover of property on which old abandoned well sites interrupt the view of the countryside.

Prior to current regulations, many well sites were abandoned and left to scar the Oklahoma landscape.  OERB was formed primarily to restore these sites to their original appearance.   According to their website (www.oerb.com) the mission of OERB is to use the strength of Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry “to improve the lives of all Oklahomans through education and restoration.”

So far the OERB has invested over $80 million in restoring more than 13,000 old well sites.  Fourteen of those sites are in Woodward County, 15 in Ellis, 2 in Harper, 26 in Dewey and 31 in Major.

Jill Harrison, OERB communications director said, “We are trying to get the word out in the rural areas about what we do. It’s completely free; there is no catch whatsoever.”

OERB encourages Oklahomans to report sites for possible restoration, relying mainly on land owners and residents of the area to locate and report sites.  Sometimes OERB is able to locate a site by using historical well site records and mapping technology.  Once a site is located, the organization reaches out to the land owner to discuss restoration.

After a site is reported, Beacon Environmental, an environmental consultant firm, makes an assessment on what work will be needed.  Local contractors are then given the opportunity to bid the job and do the work.

Sites are restored, as closely as possible, to their original state, Harrison said.  Some of the work that may be done at a well site includes the removal of lease roads and location paths, as well as removal of old equipment, concrete and debris.  Erosion or salt water scars are repaired.  Once the property is cleared, native vegetation is planted, which usually begins to take over within a year or so.

Restoration is funded through voluntary contributions paid by producers and royalty owners, leaving no cost to landowners or taxpayers.

Abandoned well sites may be registered at www.oerb.com/restoration or by calling 800-664-1301.