Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Water Plan in Oklahoma Gives Eight Key Recommendations

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Water Plan in Oklahoma Gives Eight Key Recommendations

Article excerpt

The arguments are over.

The debate is finished.

The plan is done.

And after several years of work and more than $15 million spent, state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin now have a comprehensive water plan that, officials with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board say, can be used to help set water policy for the next 50 years.

In addition to the plan's mountains of data and pages of analysis, the water plan includes a 156-page executive report outlining a series of policy recommendations for state lawmakers.

Lawmakers, starting with the Legislature's joint water committee, will analyze those recommendations during the next legislative session.

"I think the water plan is an excellent blueprint," said state Sen. Brian Crain, co-chairman of the Legislature's joint water committee. "But I don't know if we're going to adopt every recommendation made. This plan, it's a starting point."

That starting point includes eight priority recommendations, including:

* Asking the OWRB to work with a team of financial professionals to develop a more robust state funding program to meet the state's projected water and wastewater infrastructure need between now and 2060.

* Creating and funding at least 13 regional planning groups to assist in planning and implementing Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan initiatives at the regional level.

* Developing an in-stream flow workgroup.

* Establishing a formal way to consult with tribal nations about water rights.

* Requiring the OWRB and other agencies to collaborate with representatives of the state's water use sectors.

* Asking the Legislature to provide additional funds to address the growing backlog of statutorily required maximum annual yield studies and overdue 20-year updates on groundwater basins within the state.

* Asking the Legislature to provide a dedicated source of funding to enable the state to accurately assess the quality and quantity of its water resources to ensure improved water quality protection, accurate appropriation and allocation and the long-term collection of data.

In addition to the recommendations, the document includes a definition of excess and surplus water and a procedure to calculate the amount of excess and surplus water available. …

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