Journal Record Staff Reporter
It's not a "given" that economic development has to erode the environment, Gov. David Walters told the audience Wednesday at the Governor's Water Conference at the Marriott Hotel.
During his remarks, Walters also said he was proud of the progress the state has made in water development over the past 20 years, compared with other states and with other countries.
"Environmental policy need not cost us jobs," he said. "I think it's clear to say it is good for us."
Walters described how, on a trip to Moscow, the airplane he was riding in began to descend through an overcast sky, which really was a polluted sky. The rivers and streams were dirty, he said.
The state and nation should focus on opportunities to export environmental technology, he said. On a visit to Mexico, the governor said he appealed to that country's leaders to hire an Oklahoma company to convert 250 automobiles there to use compressed natural gas. "That builds jobs here," he said.
Oklahomans have shown a willingness to invest in the areas of education and water development, evidenced by approval of common education House Bill 1017 and the recent passage of a $350 million capital improvement bond issue, Walters said. While the bulk of the bond issue will fund higher education projects, $5.7 million of the proceeds are earmarked for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for loans and grants.
The governor said he had been watching the "Today" morning program on NBC-TV, which has been broadcasting from Africa.
"If Africa had in education what we have, and the foresight in water development that we have, it would be a completely different continent," he said.
A trip to Israel last summer awakened Walters to the fact that it was a land of 8,000 square miles of desert and rock, with a trickle of water running through it in the Jordan River, he said. The Israelis have used sound water management, conservation practices, and have developed ways to deal with brackish water, and have ended up being a super power, he said.
"We've been at it longer than many other states, and I'm proud of what's happened here," Walters said. From Dust Bowl days, Oklahoma now has reservoirs, lakes and a ground water system in the western part of the state, he said. …