Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency


Press Releases

October 23, 2006

Water Board Seeks Volunteers for Eucha Lake Water Quality Study

OKLAHOMA CITY— The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is seeking citizen volunteers to participate in a federal project to collect water quality data at Eucha Lake.

While Eucha is already subject to substantial monitoring efforts, an upcoming cooperative study of the lake by the Water Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require additional data to satisfy study objectives. As a result, staff with the OWRB’s Oklahoma Water Watch (OWW), a community-based statewide volunteer water quality monitoring program, are actively recruiting citizens, especially local residents, to collect and analyze water quality samples from selected sites at the upper end of the reservoir. While the OWRB has established regular sampling sites through Water Watch and the agency’s Beneficial Use Monitoring Program (BUMP), additional and more frequent sampling is required to satisfy study objectives.

“We have had tremendous success in recruiting responsible and intelligent citizens to participate in Water Watch. Eucha Lake residents, in particular, are keenly aware of the problems impacting their waters and are determined to protect and improve this beautiful lake’s water quality and recreational benefits,” says Lynda Williamson, OWW Program Coordinator.

Participants in the study will measure water clarity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH and collect chlorophyll samples. Samples should be collected each month and all necessary sampling equipment will be provided by the OWRB. Volunteer monitoring efforts take place in small groups and typically require about 2 to 3 hours per month. It is preferable that volunteers own or have access to a boat or similar watercraft but shoreline sampling is also acceptable. In the spring of 2007, OWW staff will offer training to potential study volunteers on various water quality concepts and accepted sampling techniques. Dates and locations will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, for citizens interested in joining Oklahoma Water Watch or Blue Thumb, a separate volunteer monitoring education effort of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, a joint training and education session on the two programs will be held for new volunteers on October 26-27 at the Grand Lake Association building, in Grove. The training will confer information on general stream, lake, and watershed ecology, pollution sources and prevention, and water testing procedures. OWRB and OCC staff will also conduct monitoring demonstrations. The training sessions will be held at 8:30 am to 5:00 pm on Thursday and at 8:00 am to 4:00 pm on Friday.

Those interested in volunteering for the study or attending the upcoming training should contact Lynda Williamson at 405-530-8800 or lswilliamson@owrb.state.ok.us . For more information on the Water Watch Program, visit the OWRB’s Web site at www.owrb.state.ok.us.

Lynda Williamson
Oklahoma Water Watch Coordinator
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

August 15, 2006

OWRB Responds to Statewide Drought

OKLAHOMA CITY—In response to the ongoing, devastating drought impacting virtually every region in the state, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is working with citizens and the state’s water use community to alleviate water supply problems.

According to OWRB Executive Director Duane Smith, the Water Board is receiving an average of 40 to 50 inquiries each day either reporting drought-related water problems or requesting some type of technical or financial assistance. “We’ve been somewhat inundated with calls and requests for help,” Smith points out. “From that aspect, I’d say this is definitely the worst drought we’ve experienced since at least 1980, perhaps even the 1930s.” Gov. Henry has proclaimed a Drought Emergency for Oklahoma.

The statewide drought has drastically reduced river flows and lake and aquifer levels, causing severe impacts to domestic and municipal water supplies and significantly reducing the amount of water available for other purposes. The Palmer Drought Severity Index indicates that eight of Oklahoma’s nine climate regions are currently experiencing “extreme” drought, the most severe category of drought. More than 14 inches of rain is required to bring most regions up to normal.

Smith says that the phone calls, emails, and personal visits by impacted citizens generally involve dwindling groundwater levels and reduced yields from domestic wells. “Those individuals who don’t have access to a municipal or rural water system are particularly vulnerable to drought and dry periods.”

Declines in groundwater levels are common during times of drought. “These declines often impact domestic well users first, because their wells are typically not drilled to the total saturated thickness depth of the aquifer. As the density of domestic wells increases in a particular area, and those wells become stressed trying to meet peak demands, declining aquifer levels become more prevalent,” says Smith. Rectifying those situations often requires deepening of the well or construction of an entirely new well, he adds, although the Water Board encourages individuals to tie onto public water supply systems wherever available.

Under Oklahoma Law, the Water Resources Board administers water rights for all purposes other than domestic. While the OWRB routinely assists both domestic water users and permit holders in locating sources of available water supply, during times of water use emergencies the Water Board can expedite the process normally required to put water to use. The agency may grant short-term (90-day) permits to use water as long as the proposed use will not interfere with existing permitted or domestic users.

“Often, we can help water users, including those who manage water systems, find alternative sources, locate a licensed water well driller, or secure emergency water from a stream, lake, or aquifer. If we can’t provide direct assistance, we can put them in touch with someone—Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Grand River Dam Authority, Rural Development, Rural Water Association, Municipal League, or others—who may be able to help with their problem.

While the Water Board grants permits for the use of water from federal reservoirs, the Corps of Engineers also requires that individual users obtain water storage contracts. In drought situations, the Corps can issue emergency water withdrawal permits from Corps-managed lakes for use of less than one acre-foot (325,850 gallons) for domestic or industrial use.

During drought, many water systems fall apart under the strain of greatly increased customer demand for water. Older facilities are especially vulnerable. However, in recent years, funding programs have been revitalized, thereby increasing the drought resistance of water treatment and distribution systems. In Oklahoma, the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Program (FAP) has provided $1.6 billion for improvements to community water and wastewater facilities.

Since its creation in 1983, the program has served as an especially effective tool in fighting Oklahoma’s recurring drought episodes. The FAP funding process can be accelerated for eligible systems experiencing drought-related problems. Statewide drought episodes also trigger an agency rule that allows the use of $300,000 in FAP funds to provide drought-related aid for rural and municipal water systems.

“Where during the early 1980s we saw hundreds of communities and rural water districts rationing water or experiencing system failure due to old age and record water demands, today only about 30 water systems statewide have instituted mandatory water rationing. That is largely attributable to the FAP and the help it has provided to struggling water and sewer facilities,” Smith says.

“Oklahomans are tremendously resilient people. We have many citizens who still remember the Dust Bowl days and suffered tremendous hardships during that awful period. Since that time, Oklahoma has experienced tremendous water resource development and implemented pivotal conservation measures as well as infrastructure improvements. We turned liability to asset in just a few decades.”

Smith adds the Water Board continues to look to the future in making Oklahoma truly a drought-resistant state. “Through the update of the state’s comprehensive water plan, which the OWRB has just begun, we will not only help Oklahomans cope with drought episodes, but we will find long-term solutions to the state’s water supply problems, whether it be system upgrades or construction of new reservoirs,” he adds.

Smith implores Oklahomans to conserve water, especially outdoors. Lawns, in particular, consume a tremendous amount of water, he points out. “Many homeowners overwater their lawns, which is not only wasteful but can actually damage the root system. It’s usually best to water slowly, deeply and infrequently. Also, watering early in the morning puts less strain on public water supplies by avoiding the evening peak usage time,” he recommends.

A wealth of drought, climate and water information is available on the agency’s Drought and Water Resources Monitoring Web page. (Go to www.owrb.state.ok.us and click on “Drought Conditions.”) This page also includes the Oklahoma Water Resources Bulletin, a regular publication that monitors drought and moisture conditions in Oklahoma. Utilizing data collected from numerous state and federal agencies and organizations, the report contains current information on reservoir storage, stream flow conditions, crop conditions, weather conditions, and related factors.

Contact the OWRB at 405-530-8800 and ask for Lou Klaver to report a drought-related water problem, Joe Freeman for information about water system financial assistance, and Brian Vance or Darla Whitley for other Oklahoma drought information.

Brian Vance, Public Information Officer
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

July 18, 2006

Federal, State Funds Helping Westville Meet Tough Treatment Standards

OKLAHOMA CITY—Wastewater project funding from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and other state and federal agencies will not only result in a cleaner Barren Fork River, it is helping the small community of Westville cope with tough new discharge requirements.

On July 12, Westville leaders formally broke ground on a new state-of-the-art facility that will replace the community’s antiquated treatment plant, which is currently under a consent order from the Okla. Dept. of Environmental Quality to remove excess phosphorus in its wastewater discharge. At elevated levels, phosphorus and other nutrients in rivers and lakes can result in excess algae growth that limits oxygen, frequently causing adverse impacts to aquatic life. Because the river is a state-protected Scenic River, additional treatment is required to remove nutrients and other potentially harmful pollutants.

Westville will now begin construction of a Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) treatment plant that features physical, chemical and biological treatment methodologies, including an ultra-violet disinfection system. To finance the $3,522,321 project, expected for completion next summer, Westville Municipal Authority will use an OWRB emergency grant of $100,000, an OWRB Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grant of $99,969—both approved last October—in combination with a $680,450 loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development and $2,641,902 in local funds and grants from the USDA and State Dept. of Commerce. The town has increased monthly household sewer rates to repay the USDA loan.

According to OWRB Executive Director Duane Smith, Westville is a classic example of a small community that must use limited fiscal resources to comply with increasingly stringent state and federal standards. “Here is a case where you have 827 customers who must somehow pool their resources to finance a 3.5 million dollar project. They are assuming a tremendous burden for the sake of clean water,” Smith says. “ Because of their commitment to improving Barren Fork Creek and surrounding environment, Westville officials and citizens focused their efforts on finding solutions to the problem and making this important project happen.”

To combat increasingly high levels of nutrients in Oklahoma’s state-designated Scenic Rivers, including Barren Fork Creek, the OWRB imposed a first-time numeric limitation on phosphorus discharges and loadings in 2002. State legislation was also passed that required Oklahoma agencies to identify the sources and amount of phosphorus contributions and to implement a Scenic River watershed restoration and protection strategy.

Because many of those protected rivers, such as the Illinois River, share watersheds with Arkansas, e nvironmental officials from both states have entered into an agreement that establishes a 10-year implementation schedule for compliance with new phosphorus limits. In the meantime, Oklahoma and Arkansas will coordinate monitoring and develop joint watershed plans, including both voluntary and mandatory measures, to substantially reduce phosphorus and achieve other water quality goals in shared Scenic River watersheds.

“We can’t ask cities in Arkansas to do anything cities in Oklahoma are not doing. Communities and industries in both states are responsible for the nutrient problem and are similarly responsible for correcting the problem,” Smith says.

Westville’s new facility was chosen over other means of treatment because it has the ability to be modified to meet changing discharge limits without the construction of additional treatment units. As technology to treat phosphorus progresses, the plant will be easily upgradeable for phosphorus removal by biological processes (via the SBR), filtration, or chemical treatment. An ultra-violet disinfection system will be used for bacteria removal.

Joe Freeman, Financial Assistance Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

July 14, 2006

OWRB Initiates Wister Shoreline Planting Program

On July 18-19, Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) staff will install a demo site at Quarry Island Cove for a long-term shoreline planting project at Lake Wister. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded the OWRB a $10,000 “Five Star Grant” for this project in 2005. These grants are specifically focused on jump-starting cooperation among at least five different organizations to work towards wildlife enhancement projects. Other organizations collaborating on this project include Poteau Valley Improvement Authority (PVIA), McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (MAAP), Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture (KCSA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). Additional labor assistance will be provided by the James Hamilton Correctional Facility.

KCSA has volunteered its old fisheries ponds to serve as a plant nursery for approximately 1200 Bulrush plants, which will be transported from Brown Lake on the MAAP Army Base using PVIA and MAAP heavy equipment. The KCSA ponds should provide an excellent setting for the transplanted bulrush to grow, and by next summer, there should be more than enough established plants to begin the transfer to Wister.

Softstem bulrush has proven to grow effectively in Wister Lake and will provide long-term benefits, including the enhancement of water quality and wildlife habitat for fish and waterfowl throughout the shallow areas of the lake. Small wire cages and pens in the shallows of the cove will initially protect the plants from rough fish and beavers until a thick stand can be established. Over time, the plants will fill their cages and spread seed throughout the cove. As project coordinator, the OWRB envisions local interested parties, such as PVIA and others, using the bulrush nursery to continue plantings in coves throughout the lake.

Owen Mills, Water Quality Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

July 10, 2006

Canton Lake Water Release Scheduled

OKLAHOMA CITY—At the request of Oklahoma City officials, fellow members of the Canton Lake Advisory Committee have consented to the release of 25,000 acre-feet of water to supplement supply in the City’s central Oklahoma lakes.

Citing the local deficiency of spring and early summer rains, Marsha Slaughter, Director of Oklahoma City’s Water and Wastewater Utilities Department, requested that the water release begin July 17, depending upon the timing and amount of regional precipitation; the release will likely continue for at least several days. The City of Oklahoma City owns storage in Canton Lake and occasionally relies upon available water in the reservoir to help replenish downstream Lakes Overholser and Hefner, two of Oklahoma City’s most important water supplies that are hydrologically connected with Canton through the North Canadian River.

The past 60 days (May 11-June 9) marks central Oklahoma’s seventh driest such period since at least 1921. Central Oklahoma has received about 4 inches of rainfall, a deficit of more than 5 inches and only 44 percent of normal. The request was considered at a June 28 meeting of the Canton Lake Advisory Committee where members agreed that the proposal was consistent with existing lake policy. Oklahoma City serves on the organization along with representatives of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and recreational interests, including the Canton Lake Association and Oklahoma City Boat Club.

“Recent dry conditions have really taken their toll on our local sources of supply,” Slaughter points out. “As always, the call for releases from Canton was done with considerable forethought in regard to impacts on recreation at the lake.” She points out that the release could be interrupted should the North Canadian River watershed receive heavy runoff during the 8- to 10-day period. The ongoing release originates from the bottom of Canton dam to preserve dissolved oxygen levels that are so critical to the lake’s fishery resources.

The Canton Lake Advisory Committee was originally formed to address the various impacts that future releases could have on recreational and wildlife interests vital to the area’s economy in northwest Oklahoma. The Advisory Committee provides Canton-area business owners and citizens who depend upon the lake with a voice in how the lake is managed. A major result of the Committee’s efforts was formation of a fair and comprehensive water release plan in 1995 and establishment of a “seasonal pool” operating level to mitigate fluctuations.

“While the existing plan addresses many of the issues and impacts involving the release of Canton waters for use by Oklahoma City, we are constantly striving to improve the plan so that it absolutely minimizes impacts to fishing, waterfowl habitat, boating and other recreational interests, even under the most difficult of circumstances,” said Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Duane Smith, Executive Director
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

Marsha Slaughter, Director
Oklahoma City Dept. of Water and Wastewater Utilities
(405) 297-2822

June 12, 2006

Tulsa to Host Water Board Meeting

On June 20, 2006, Tulsa will host the monthly meeting of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the Parkview East Room at the Double Tree at Warren Place, 6110 South Yale. The nine-member Board, which meets on the second Tuesday of each month, usually at its Oklahoma City offices, is responsible for administering the use of both surface and groundwater in the state and overseeing the state’s largest financial assistance program for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements in Oklahoma.

With its financial assistance program, the OWRB is authorized to assist political subdivisions and municipal corporations of the state. The OWRB’s financial assistance options include the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), and OWRB Revenue Bond Loan Programs, and the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) and Emergency Grant Programs. Collectively, these programs have been responsible for more than $1.6 billion in low-interest financing for community water and sewer infrastructure projects in Oklahoma since 1983, when the OWRB’s financial assistance program was launched through a $25 million dollar appropriation by the State Legislature.

In 1990, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) became a customer and the Board’s first recipient of a CWSRF loan. A total of 39 loans have been made to the TMUA since 1990 for more than $335 million, giving Tulsa residents an estimated savings of almost $101 million in interest. These loans have been essential in assisting Tulsa’s wastewater system to be in full environmental regulatory compliance.

Loans and grants currently under consideration are listed on the Board’s June 20 meeting agenda. For more information on the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Program, contact Joe Freeman at 405-530-8800.

Mike Melton
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
(405) 530-8800

May 30, 2006

Wildlife Refuge to Host First Oklahoma Environmental Volunteer Conference

On June 26-27, a conference for environmental volunteers will be held at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. Entitled “Pulling Together: A Stewardship Conference for Environmental Volunteers,” the event has been designed to benefit any environmental volunteer, but should particularly appeal to anyone interested in water quality issues, such as volunteer lake or stream monitors and trainers.

Utilizing funding from a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant, the office of the Oklahoma Secretary of Environment is coordinating the conference. Additional sponsors include the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, and the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The State of Oklahoma currently directs two volunteer water quality monitoring programs: Oklahoma Water Watch, coordinated by the Water Resources Board, and Blue Thumb, coordinated by the Conservation Commission.

According to Gayle Bartholomew, conference coordinator, even though many of the presentations will have a water quality theme, the conference will appeal to a broad audience of individuals and organizations concerned about Oklahoma's environment. She adds that holding the conference in southwest Oklahoma could greatly benefit the area by bringing in citizens who are interested in volunteering but lack information on how to get started.

Cost to attend the conference is $20. No affiliation with a volunteer organization is necessary. For more information, contact Gayle Bartholomew at 405-530-8996.

Gayle Bartholomew
Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of the Environment

May 23, 2006

What is Water Worth?

by Duane Smith, Executive Director
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Reeling from the Dust Bowl and Depression of more than half a century ago, only a renewed sense of purpose and determination saved Oklahomans from almost certain ruin. Widespread water development, conservation and planning have since made Oklahoma a state rich with water resources, both on the surface and underground. Almost 1 billion gallons of surface water-our primary source of supply, most frequently for drinking and related public water needs-is consumed each and every day. In addition, the state's farms, ranches, cities and industries pull about 774,000,000 gallons of water each day from our aquifers.

While our waters provide the lifeblood of our economy and society, each year about 34 million acre-feet of water-or about 83,000,000 gallons per day-flows out of the state through the Red River and Arkansas River basins. Annual lake evaporation ranges from 48 inches in far eastern Oklahoma to 65 inches in the southwest, numbers that far exceed the average rainfall in those regions. These are constant reminders that we need to do the absolute best with the water we have while we have it.

Additional problems further complicate management and protection of our waters. A growing population, competing interests among a multitude of users, and increasingly stringent state and federal regulations are putting a severe strain on our supplies as well as the costs required to deliver water to the tap. A century ago, the average American used about 10 gallons of water per day to drink, cook, clean, and bathe. Today, we use 100 gallons. Our waters are threatened by runoff containing excessive sediment and elevated levels of nutrients, chemicals, and other pollutants. Thousands of wells tap water from deep within the Ogallala Aquifer to support farms and ranches throughout western Oklahoma, but this use far exceeds recharge in most areas. And on the heels of a very wet period in Oklahoma from the early 1980s through the early 2000s, we are in the midst of a drought that could rival the Dust Bowl period. Despite the recent rainfall, deficits of 10 to 20 inches persist in several regions of the state over the past year.

Surprisingly, we still take water for granted. Perhaps we undervalue it because it is so available and affordable. We fail to appreciate what it takes to deliver that water to our tap, the years of planning and financial commitment required to secure a source of supply and then to construct, operate, and maintain the infrastructure that makes the water safe to drink and distributes it to our homes and businesses.

Unfortunately, this infrastructure is aging at a rapid pace, almost as fast as the federal government reallocates funds upon which communities depend to repair and rebuild their water and sewer systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma's water and wastewater facilities will require $5.4 billon in rehabilitation and new construction to meet the needs of our citizens, and that's just through 2025.

These ever-evolving water issues and priorities require that we pursue a more progressive approach in planning for our water future. Recognizing that Oklahoma citizens require a truly far-reaching strategy that provides for both study and actual implementation of water projects, Governor Henry has advocated $6.5 million over the next three years to update the state's water plan. Legislative support for the plan is also very strong.

An updated water plan would establish for every community in Oklahoma-every water system, rural and urban, small and large-an updated assessment of both its current water situation and its long-term water needs. These individual analyses would include detailed inventories of existing water supplies and infrastructure. Secondly, potential water management strategies would be identified to best meet the future needs of customers, including development of additional water supplies and regionalization of facilities. And each water system would develop a plan to cope with eventual and inevitable drought episodes.

Planning is important but just as crucial is a feasible and dependable source of financing to underwrite construction of basic infrastructure needs identified through an updated water plan. This is why Gov. Henry also supports a $25 million initiative to regenerate the Statewide Water Development Revolving Fund, Oklahoma's most popular water/sewer system funding source, which is fast running out of money.

About 25 years ago, as today, Oklahoma communities and rural water systems were wrestling with drought and tough decisions related to water rationing. Oil revenues had filled state coffers. In 1983, sensing the time was right, key state legislators rallied support for creation of a water/wastewater project loan and grant program to increase the ability of our cities and towns to withstand future drought episodes and keep pace with community growth. From the subsequent $25 million investment, the OWRB's Financial Assistance Program has today directly funded $1.5 billion in facility improvements.

Primarily because FAP loans offer such low-interest rates, the program has also furnished a collective savings of almost half a billion dollars to participating communities. For a typical example, in 2000 and 2001, separate loans totaling $28.8 million were made to the City of Stillwater to upgrade the city's wastewater treatment and drinking water systems. As a direct result of this financing and the relative costs of doing business through the conventional loan market, each of the Stillwater Utilities Authority's 13,000 customers saves about 3 dollars per month on their utility bill. Such savings are magnified in rural communities that often lack the financing options afforded to larger cities and towns in Oklahoma. And the many hundreds of local governments who have taken advantage of the program have also enhanced their ability to finance other pressing needs, such as roads and schools.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma's ability to respond to its water and wastewater system needs continues to shrink. Our water future rests in the hands of the State Legislature and their decision in the coming days to recapitalize the Revolving Fund and fund the state's first truly comprehensive water plan to ensure water supply for both urban and rural water customers throughout the next 50 to 100 years.

In Oklahoma, we know all to well what water is worth. Our history tells us that we must always keep an eye to the future when it comes to planning for the future prosperity and economic welfare of our children. I urge all Oklahomans to call or write their elected officials and tell them that investing in Oklahoma's water future should be our number one priority.

May 19, 2006

OWRB to Hold Public Meeting on Clean Water State Revolving Fund FY 2007 Intended Use Plan

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board will hold a public meeting to receive comments on the draft FY 2007 Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Priority Project List and Intended Use (Strategic) Plan on Thursday, June 22, 2006, at 10:30a.m. at 3800 North Classen Blvd, Oklahoma City. Initiated by 1987 amendments to the Federal Clean Water Act, the CWSRF loan program provides a renewable financing source for Oklahoma's infrastructure and pollution runoff control needs. Eligible public systems may receive below market interest rate financing for construction and improvement of collection and treatment works, stormwater, brownfields, and nonpoint source pollution control activities. A copy of the draft plan will be available at the OWRB's Oklahoma City location. To submit a proposed project for inclusion on the State's FY 2007 Intended Use Plan or for further information contact: Julie Cunningham, Financial Assistance Division, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, (405)530-8800.

Julie Cunningham
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

May 1, 2006

Governor Proclaims May Flood Awareness Month

Because spring marks the unofficial beginning of the state's flood season and to make citizens aware of flooding problems and solutions, Governor Brad Henry has designated May as “Flood Awareness Month “ in Oklahoma.

”We remind citizens that heavy rains and severe storms typically occur in the early spring months, making this one of the most dangerous times of the year, “ says Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB).

”This proclamation will be of tremendous help to the Water Board in educating the public on flood safety procedures and floodplain management techniques,“ Smith adds. Earlier, Governor Henry proclaimed March as ”Flood Insurance Month,“ part of a state campaign to spread the word about the availability of affordable flood insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency''s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Oklahoma currently boasts 380 NFIP member communities, which consist of municipalities, counties, and tribes.

”Severe flooding episodes occur in Oklahoma virtually every year, most frequently in the spring and fall,“ says Mike Mathis, State Floodplain Manager. ”Implementation of sound floodplain management and building strategies, particularly through the NFIP, is the most effective way for communities to avert potential flood damages.“ However, he encourages communities to go ”above and beyond“ minimum NFIP standards, consistent with the national Association of State Floodplain Manager's ongoing ''No Adverse Impact'' initiative. Mathis points out that 87% of homes in Oklahoma's designated floodplains have no flood insurance.

On an individual basis, Mathis reminds Oklahomans of the dangers of driving into floodwaters. ”Almost one-half of all flood-related fatalities occur in vehicles, primarily when people drive into flooded highway dips or low drainage areas at night. As little as six inches of water can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. Two feet of water will sweep most cars off the road,“ he says.

As an integral part of Oklahoma's spring flood awareness campaign, the OWRB is sponsoring one-day workshops throughout the state to update city, county and tribal floodplain administrators on NFIP compliance requirements and provide assistance in the development, administration and enforcement of local floodplain management regulations that guide floodplain development. The Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) exam will be offered to pre-approved candidates at the close of each training day. There is no registration fee for the workshops, which feature speakers from the OWRB, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, City of Broken Arrow, Hydropower International Services, Meshek and Associates and RD Flanagan and Associates.

”Training is the key,“ Mathis adds. ”I want to impress upon city and county officials the importance of regular training, at least annually. These educational opportunities not only help floodplain administrators better enforce local ordinances, they build confidence.“

Sessions are scheduled for:

May 2 Oklahoma City
3800 N. Classen Blvd.

May 4 Bartlesville
Tri County Technology Center
6101 SE Nowata Road

May 16 McAlester
Eastern Okla. State College, Room 109
1802 E. College Avenue

May 18 Oklahoma City
3800 N. Classen Blvd.

May 23 Woodward High Plains Institute of Technology
3921 34th St.

May 25 Lawton
Lawton Public Library
110 SW 4th

The OWRB also works closely with the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) to educate state property/casualty agents and adjusters on NFIP rules and procedures. Because the Water Board's workshops are accredited by the OID, agents and adjusters can earn up to six continuing education credits for attending at least one workshop every two years. Also, the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission will provide continuing education credits for the floodplain management 101 workshops for Real Estate Professionals who complete the appropriate forms available from their web site. ”Oklahoma consumers need to be aware that their basic homeowner's insurance policy does not provide coverage to protect against damages created by flooding,“ said Insurance Commissioner Holland. ”I encourage everyone to consult the latest floodplain maps or visit with their local insurance agent to assess their need for flood insurance.“ For more information on Flood Awareness Month, the spring workshops or the National Flood Insurance Program, call Mike Mathis at 405-530-8800.

Mike Mathis, State Coordinator National Flood Insurance Program
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

April 12, 2006

First Water Appreciation Day Set for April 19

The inaugural Capitol Water Appreciation Day will be held April 19, 2006, at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board will host the event, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Capitol’s 4th floor rotunda. Water Appreciation Day will present a unique opportunity for groups to demonstrate the importance of Oklahoma’s water resources and provide information on their water management, conservation, and educational programs for state legislators and other government officials.

“Organizations have hosted Ag Day, GIS Day, Consumer Protection Day, and various other observations at the State Capitol, so the Water Board believes it's past time for a day devoted solely to recognizing the importance our water resources,” says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director. “It’s our hope that this diverse assembly of water interests will not only attract the attention of our Governor and Legislative leadership, but also establish the annual Capitol Water Day as the state's premier event celebrating water and those who strive to protect Oklahoma's most precious natural resource.”

To mark the occasion, the Water Board has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. in the Capitol Press Room. Providing remarks on the importance of Oklahoma’s water resources and pertinent water issues currently facing the state will be OWRB Chairman Rudy Herrmann, Executive Director Duane Smith, and members of the Oklahoma State Legislature.

Numerous agencies and organizations with water interests--including public water supply, agriculture, tourism and recreation, environmental protection, wildlife conservation, soil conservation, energy, and industry, as well as occupations such as well drillers, floodplain managers, environmental engineers, and others--have been invited to showcase how they individually and collectively protect the state’s surface and groundwaters.

For more information on Water Appreciation Day, call Mike Melton at 405-530-8800.

March 27, 2006

Governor Declares March Flood Insurance Month

Each year in Oklahoma, thousands of citizens who experience flood damage lack the protection afforded through readily available flood insurance. To enhance awareness of the availability of federal flood insurance, as well as inform Oklahomans about intelligent floodplain management and development procedures, Governor Brad Henry has designated March as “Flood Insurance Month “ in Oklahoma.

”All too often, property owners and renters become aware of flood insurance and other protection measures only after a flood has financially devastated them or their community,“ said Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB).” The Governor's proclamation provides the OWRB, insurance companies and emergency management organizations with a valuable opportunity to spread the word on the availability of relatively inexpensive flood insurance. “

Smith added the timing of the Flood Insurance Month designation is appropriate because Oklahoma's spring flooding season is just around the corner. ”Most flood insurance policies require a 30-day waiting period,“ he pointed out. ”Because, historically, most of Oklahoma's flooding disasters have occurred during the spring, now is the time for those citizens who reside in designated floodplains to purchase flood insurance, if they have not already.“ Smith added that a flood insurance policy could be purchased from any licensed property insurance agent.

Of the 38 presidentially declared disasters in Oklahoma since 1955, 28 have involved flooding. In an effort to mitigate such emergencies, Governor Dewey Bartlett designated the OWRB as the agency to coordinate the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1969. The NFIP assists Oklahomans and its 380 member communities by making flood insurance available at affordable rates and helping communities make wise decisions concerning floodplain use. To be eligible for flood insurance, participants must establish a floodplain board, recognize floodplain boundaries and restrict development in those areas. Such strategies typically result in reduced federal outlays to mitigate flood damages. The OWRB coordinates the NFIP in Oklahoma in a cooperative partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association and Oklahoma Insurance Department.

More than 88 percent of homes and businesses in the state that lie in the 100-year floodplain have no flood insurance, according to Mike Mathis, OWRB State Floodplain Manager. ”It is disheartening relatively few people take advantage of the benefits afforded through the purchase of flood insurance, especially since it is inexpensive and offers such comprehensive protection against one of our most common natural disasters, “ Mathis said.

Also, to make citizens better aware of flooding problems in Oklahoma, Governor Henry has designated May as ”Flood Awareness Month.“ For more information on Flood Insurance Month, call Mike Mathis, Chief of the OWRB's Planning and Management Division, at 405-530-8800.

Mike Mathis, State Coordinator National Flood Insurance Program
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

March 9, 2006

Lake Carl Blackwell Focus Of Volunteer Clean-up Effort

Volunteers will comb the shores of Stillwater's Lake Carl Blackwell on Saturday, April 1, as part of Lake Sweep, an annual volunteer-driven beautification effort targeting state lakes of particular recreational importance. Local citizens are encouraged to attend the event, which will begin at 9 a.m.

Lake Sweep fosters citizen pride and public awareness while accentuating the recreational and related benefits of Oklahoma's reservoirs and municipal lakes. The effort is a component of Oklahoma Water Watch, a volunteer water monitoring and educational program that encourages citizens of all ages to protect and maintain the quality of local rivers and lakes throughout Oklahoma. Water Watch is directed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Lake Sweep headquarters will be the Lake Carl Blackwell Store at 11000 West Highway 51 in Stillwater. All Lake Sweep participants should wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves, a trash pick-up stick, insect repellant, and sunscreen. Water Watch staff and other coordinators of the event will provide trash bags, lake maps, water, and lunch.

Children are encouraged to participate, but only with suitable adult supervision. Rain or other inclement weather is not expected to impact the event. Lake Sweep will conclude at noon with presentation of awards and prizes for volunteers collecting the most unique articles of trash.

To volunteer for Carl Blackwell Lake Sweep or for more information, contact Karina Rivas-Careaga, OWRB Water Quality Specialist, at 405-530-8800, or Brandon L. Hise, Lake Carl Blackwell Park Ranger, at (405) 372-5157.

Karina Rivas-Careaga, Water Quality Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Brandon L. Hise, Park Ranger
Lake Carl Blackwell

March 9, 2006

Shawnee Twin Lakes Hosts Lake Sweep April 22

On April 22, volunteers will gather along the shores of Shawnee Twin Lakes with garbage bags in hand to participate in Lake Sweep, an organized cleanup of the area. Throughout the state, Lake Sweep events serve to foster citizen pride and public awareness while accentuating the recreational and related benefits of Oklahoma's reservoirs and municipal lakes. Volunteers pick up litter along shorelines that is not only unsightly, but can also have a negative impact on water quality and wildlife.

Volunteers are asked to gather at 9:00 a.m. at the Isaac Park Pavilion for refreshments, supplies, and instructions. They will then disperse to pre-designated areas around the lake to pick up litter. Children are encouraged to participate, but only with suitable adult supervision. Rain or other inclement weather is not expected to impact the event. All Lake Sweep participants should wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves, a trash pick-up stick, insect repellant, and sunscreen. Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) staff and other coordinators of the event will provide trash bags, lake maps, water, and lunch.

At noon, the trash bags will be delivered to a dumpster in the park, and volunteers will reconvene for lunch. Lake Sweep will conclude with presentation of awards and prizes for volunteers collecting the most unique articles of trash.

This Lake Sweep event is sponsored by the Shawnee Twin Lakes Association, OWRB, Oklahoma Water Watch, Oklahoma Clean Lakes and Watershed Association, and the City of Shawnee. The event is also part of the Oklahoma Take Pride in America© initiative. Take Pride in America© is a national partnership program that encourages, supports, and recognizes volunteers who work to improve our public parks, forests, grasslands, reservoirs, wildlife refuges, cultural and historic sites, local playgrounds, and other recreation areas. Our public lands represent more than one acre in every three across the nation.

In Oklahoma, Take Pride is sponsored in part by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Office of the Secretary of the Environment. For additional information regarding how you can ”Take Pride“, go to www.keepoklahomabeautiful.org. To volunteer for the Lake Sweep at Shawnee Twin Lakes, contact Linda Agee at (405) 214-9969 or 954-7385.

Linda Agee, Chairman
Shawnee Twin Lakes Association
405-214-9969 or 954-7385

February 22, 2006

Water Board Launches Online Mapping Program

A new online mapping application developed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board now allows the public to view and query comprehensive information concerning the state's surface and groundwater resources.

The OWRB Water Information Mapping System (WIMS), customized by the agency's development and Geographic Information System (GIS) staff from Internet Mapping Server (IMS) software, allows visitors to the agency's Web site at www.owrb.state.ok.us/maps/server/wims.php to build and view custom-made maps containing water resource and related information on Oklahoma. The application is the product of more than two years of development and received an important assist from a project to map Oklahoma's wetlands. “I am extremely proud to say that the Water Resources Board has independently deployed this very useful Web site application,” says OWRB Executive Director Duane Smith. “The unique technical expertise possessed by our staff has enabled us to develop a high-quality product that provides a variety of benefits to Oklahoma citizens. And it's relatively easy to use.” The application was launched in January.

Visitors to WIMS can create their own maps by simply selecting an area of interest and one or more of the associated map layers to display. Approximately 40 layers are currently available, including surface and groundwater resources, permit locations (including areas of use and dedicated lands), political boundaries, rural water system lines, roads and highways, and geology. Topographic, shaded relief, and aerial images of the state (from 2003) are also available. The OWRB will continuously add additional water resource and related layers and features to WIMS. “WIMS was created to satisfy the increasing public thirst for water information, but the true benefit of the application is that it empowers the public in making intelligent decisions related to water use and protection. An educated public helps us to do a better and more efficient job in managing Oklahoma's water resources,” adds Smith.

Staff have also developed a separate, though similar, web-based mapping application specifically designed for internal use that will allow the Water Board to save money that would otherwise be required to purchase expensive GIS software licenses.

Much of the project was funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded to the Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of Environment. The current goal of the ongoing project, which was initiated during the fall of 2004 in cooperation with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, is to digitize the paper versions of all 1,256 National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) maps for Oklahoma. As these maps are completed and the data transferred to digital format, appropriate wetlands GIS layers are created, integrated into WIMS, and made available to the public on the OWRB's Web site.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for cataloging information on the characteristics, extent, and status of the nation's wetlands and deepwater habitats. The NWI is a coordinated effort by the Service to map wetlands and digitize, archive, and distribute the maps.

For more information on WIMS, contact Brian Vance at 405-530-8800.

Brian Vance
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

February 18, 2005

Lake Thunderbird Focus Of Volunteer Clean-up and Restoration Effort

On April 8, volunteers at Lake Thunderbird will once again participate in Lake Sweep, an annual event targeting state lakes of particular recreational importance.

Each year, hundreds of volunteers respond to Lake Sweep's appeal for beautification in the metropolitan Oklahoma City area. The event fosters citizen pride and public awareness while accentuating the recreational and related benefits of Oklahoma's reservoirs and municipal lakes. A component of Oklahoma Water Watch, a volunteer water monitoring and educational program, Lake Sweep encourages citizens of all ages to protect and maintain the quality of local rivers and lakes throughout Oklahoma. Water Watch is directed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

This year, Thunderbird Lake Sweep volunteers will be split into two groups. One group will be responsible for potting shoreline and submerged vegetation at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Fisheries Laboratory, in Norman, located at 500 Constellation Street between Reaves Park and Highway 9. The other group will meet at the lake's BoatHouse at Indian Point Drive off Alameda Street to pick up trash and recyclable items along the lake shore. Both groups will begin at 9 a.m.

All Lake Sweep participants should wear sturdy shoes and bring work gloves. For the BoatHouse group, a trash pick-up stick, insect repellant, and sunscreen are recommended. OWRB staff and other coordinators of the event will provide trash bags, lake maps, potting instructions, water, and lunch.

Children are encouraged to participate, but only with suitable adult supervision. Rain or other inclement weather is not expected to impact the event at either location. Lake Sweep will conclude at noon with a lunch and presentation of volunteer prizes.

To volunteer for Thunderbird Lake Sweep or for more information, contact Karina Rivas-Careaga, OWRB Water Quality Specialist, at 405-530-8800.

Karina Rivas-Careaga
Water Quality Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

February 9, 2006

OWRB Requests Comments on Proposed Amendments to Clean Water Project Plan

In accordance with program regulations, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is requesting public comment on its amended FY 2006 Clean Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan.

Since last June's public meeting to discuss various aspects of the Plan, the communities of Bethany, Noble, Wewoka, and Calera have all requested loan projects for consideration during FY 2006. In addition, changes have been made to the FY 2006 CWSRF Priority List to adjust projected target dates and loan amounts of several proposed loans currently on the list.

The OWRB's CWSRF Program, enabled through 1987 amendments to the Federal Clean Water Act, provides low-interest loans to public entities for wastewater infrastructure construction projects and nonpoint source pollution control activities, including refinancing of eligible local debt incurred for these activities. Loan repayments are leveraged to provide financing for future water pollution control loans. As program administrator, the OWRB is responsible for preparing an annual Intended Use Plan (IUP) that establishes program goals, identifies sources and uses of funds, and provides a ranked listing of projects proposed by communities requesting loan funds.

Notice of the amendment has been published and distributed to public wastewater authorities currently listed on the IUP, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders. A copy of the proposal is also available on the OWRB's Web site at www.owrb.state.ok.us and at the OWRB's Oklahoma City Office, located at 3800 North Classen Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73118. For comment, questions, or more information, call Julie Cunningham at 405-530-8800.

Julie Cunningham
Financial Assistance Division
Oklahoma Water Resources Board

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