Oklahoma City to Host Annual Water Conference & Water Research Symposium October 23-25
OKLAHOMA CITY—State and national experts will analyze the diverse water and environmental issues facing Oklahoma and discuss details surrounding an ongoing update of the state’s Water Plan at the 28th Annual Governor’s Water Conference and Water Research Symposium on October 23-25 at the Cox Business Services Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The Conference/Symposium—cosponsored by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute (OWRRI)—will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 23, and conclude Thursday afternoon, October 25.
“Not since the hey day of water development in Oklahoma during the 40s and 50s has water been so much in the forefront of the public’s mind,” says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director. “Today, citizens are much more involved in water quality and pollution control issues, water use decisions, studies of our surface and groundwater resources, and in determining what Oklahoma’s water future should look like through the update of the state Water Plan. These and other topics will be examined in detail at the three-day Water Conference and Symposium.”
According to Smith, this year’s event is special because it coincides with both the state’s Centennial and the 50th anniversary of the Water Resources Board as Oklahoma’s water agency. The OWRB was created in 1957 following a two-year study of the state’s most pressing water issues and problems. On Wednesday evening, October 24, the OWRB will host a banquet recognizing 100 years of water development in Oklahoma, including agency accomplishments throughout the past half-century.
The OWRRI Symposium, beginning Tuesday and concluding just before lunch on Wednesday, features a morning technical session exploring all aspects of the hydrology of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer and the ongoing study of the groundwater resource, scheduled for completion next year. That afternoon, experts will share updates and new developments in the water research arena as well as a 90-minute session dedicated to the Grand Lake Watershed Interstate Public/Private Plan. Two sessions on Wednesday morning, “Defining Water Sustainability” and “Science and Policy,” will provide details on some of the latest water-related studies and policy developments. The sessions follow Dr. John Luthy, president of the Futures Corporation, who will lead off with a discussion of what could be in store for Oklahoma’s water future.
The Water Conference portion of the event kicks off during the Wednesday luncheon where John Paul Woodley, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Corps of Engineers), will contribute remarks on federal water planning. Oklahoma Water Pioneers will also be announced, as will winners of the OWRRI’s student poster competition.
After lunch, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson will update conferees on legal issues facing the state’s water community and citizens followed by “Conservation as a Planning Tool” by Gary Mast, Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Following an update on the latest developments related to creation of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, due in 2011, and a review of related planning efforts in Kansas by Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office Director, a unique forum will feature five representatives of state water use interests who will outline their “water vision” for the next 50 years.
The concluding half-day of the Water Conference on Thursday morning includes Miles Tolbert, Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment, with a presentation on “Sustainable Water Planning” and an update from Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson. Ken Crawford, State Climatologist and Director of the Climatological Survey, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s James R. Brown will then explore “Responding to Climate Change”. A select group of state legislators—including Senators Glenn Coffee and Jay Paul Gumm and Representatives Guy Liebmann and Skye McNiel—will also provide their individual perspectives prior to adjournment.
Registration for the Annual Governor’s Water Conference and Water Research Symposium begins each day at 8:00 a.m., approximately 15 minutes before the meeting begins. To register in advance, visit the OWRRI’s Web site at http://environ.okstate.edu/OKWATER/index.asp. To view an updated agenda, visit the OWRB’s Web site at www.owrb.state.ok.us.
Making Oklahoma Communities “Flood Safe”
The extensive statewide flooding in July and August has raised numerous questions concerning community floodplain management and land use. However, both prior to and in the wake of this flooding, state and local officials are continually working to make Oklahoma’s cities, towns and counties “flood safe.”
According to Gavin Brady, State Coordinator of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), many Oklahoma communities that were victimized by this widespread flooding are fortunate because they participate in the NFIP and have taken the responsibility associated with program membership so that their citizens are eligible to purchase relatively inexpensive flood insurance from the federal government.
“It’s surprising that many residents in these communities are unaware that they have the option to purchase flood insurance through the NFIP. Others that know about the program, including some insurance agents, believe that residents in a designated floodplain are ineligible for a flood insurance policy, or that you cannot buy a policy if you do not live in the floodplain. These are all myths,” Brady points out. “The truth is that as long as your community has joined the NFIP, flood insurance can be purchased by anyone that lives in that community.”
Brady says that officials in NFIP member communities adopt a flood damage prevention ordinance that provides them with the authority to regulate development proposed in high-risk flood areas. This ordinance ensures that new construction will be reasonably safe from flooding, thereby limiting the amount of damage to personal property during a flood event.
“Substantial damage” determinations are made on homes and businesses that become flooded with several feet of water contaminated with pollutants, such as fecal coliforms, oil and grease, pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful materials. “If it is determined by local officials that the structure’s damage equals or exceeds 50% of the its market value, it must be elevated, moved to high ground, or demolished. Repairs are made only on those structures that have not been damaged substantially,” Brady adds. He says the Oklahoma Water Resources Board provides monthly workshops to train Oklahoma’s floodplain officials on administering their ordinance and other regulations that guide development in the floodplain. Information about workshops dates, including enrollment, is available at www.owrb.ok.gov.
For more information on the NFIP, contact Gavin Brady, NFIP State Coordinator, at 918-581-2924, or go to www.floodsmart.gov.
Water Board Stresses Future Prevention in Wake of Statewide Flooding
The OWRB, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Association of State Floodplain Managers, and Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association, is reminding flood-ravaged communities in Oklahoma that now is the time to prevent future flood problems by elevating, relocating or demolishing repeatedly-damaged structures.
“We need to break the cycle of damage and repair,” according to Gavin Brady, State Floodplain Coordinator with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. “Allowing citizens to rebuild in the same old flood-prone way facilitates a time bomb of misery.” Fortunately, he adds, federal assistance is available to help families and business owners allay much of the costs associated with structure modification or relocation.
Through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), FEMA provides grants to states and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. FEMA can fund up to 75% of the eligible costs of each HMGP project with the state or local government providing a 25% match through cash and/or in-kind sources.
Already, Brady says, City of Miami and Ottawa County officials are performing “substantial damage” estimates of prospective eligible structures that are repeatedly flooded to the point where the cost of restoration would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the property before damage occurred. “I am very encouraged to see that local officials are taking a proactive approach to flood damage prevention, including the enforcement of floodplain regulations required under the National Flood Insurance Program.”
Ottawa County Commissioners estimate that 2,000 individuals have been displaced throughout the County with the City of Miami being hardest hit. Earlier this month, the Neosho River reached heights residents haven’t seen since 1951. FEMA trailers are being moved into the Miami area to provide temporary housing for residents.
Brady says it is not only unwise but unsafe to allow citizens to move back into flood damaged homes and businesses. “These structures become contaminated with floodwaters, which is a health issue.”
For more information on the National Flood Insurance Program and the elevation, relocation, and demolition of structures damaged by recent flooding, contact Gavin Brady at 405-530-8800.
Survey to Assess Condition of Oklahoma Lakes
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is teaming up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a statewide assessment of the condition of selected Oklahoma lakes. The survey, which targets 52 randomly selected lakes throughout the state, began in June and will continue throughout September.
The effort is a part of the National Lakes Survey, which aims to measure the health of the nation’s waters, take actions to prevent pollution, and evaluate the effectiveness of protection and restoration efforts. This larger survey is a collaborative effort among dozens of state environmental and natural resource agencies, federal agencies, universities and other organizations. A total of 909 lakes, distributed geographically across the lower 48 states, are included in the survey. Lakes are at least one meter deep and over ten acres in size.
OWRB water quality specialists are conducting the lake water quality sampling and habitat assessments in Oklahoma. “In essence, we’re compiling a report card for Oklahoma’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs,” says Derek Smithee, chief of the OWRB’s Water Quality Division. “In turn, Oklahoma data will contribute to a regional and national assessment of lake conditions.”
“This study is groundbreaking not only in its geographical extent, but in that everyone involved will use consistent sampling and analytical procedures to ensure that the results can be compared across the country and region,” Smithee points out. He adds that the survey will also help build state and tribal capacity for monitoring and assessment and promote collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries in the assessment of water quality.
According to Smithee, field crews will be taking measurements of the following parameters:
“I believe that water will be the key issue throughout the next century in Oklahoma, so the data collected in this survey will not only help us understand the direction we need to take to protect our waters but also to build a brighter future for Oklahoma’s citizens,” Smithee emphasizes.The final report of the study will be issued following public review in 2009. For more information on the National and Oklahoma Lakes Survey, call Derek Smithee at 405-530-8800.
OWRB Elects Officers; Mark Nichols of Altus as Chairman
Jess Mark Nichols of Altus, Oklahoma, was elected the new Chairman at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 12.
Representing irrigation interests on the Board, Nichols is a cotton farmer and a member of the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Cotton Council, Producers Oil Mill, and Southwest Technology Center. He is an At Large member and his term expires in May 2011. Nichols has served on the Board since May 2004 and has served as Vice Chairman for the last two years. “Oklahoma faces a myriad of water challenges as we enter the state’s second century of statehood. This is an exciting time for the Water Resources Board and the citizens of Oklahoma, and I am pleased to be in a position to move forward the important programs of the Board, in particular, the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Planning effort,” said Nichols. Nichols replaces Rudy Herrmann of Tulsa, whose term as Chairman ended this month after a two-year period. Herrmann, recently re-appointed to the Board by Governor Henry, was elected as Vice Chairman, and represents industrial water use interests. Ford Drummond, Bartlesville, was elected as Secretary. Drummond represents agricultural water use interests and is currently the owner and operator of a large family ranch in Osage County. Drummond joined the Board in 2006.
The OWRB meets monthly, usually on the second Tuesday of the month, to conduct the state’s water business. For more information, go to www.owrb.ok.gov.
WRDA Bill to Provide Funding for Water Plan
On Friday, Senator James Inhofe announced Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes several critical provisions for Oklahoma. Following the bill’s passage, by a vote of 91-4, a press release by Senator Inhofe pointed out that water resources are “one of Oklahoma’s greatest assets.”
“This bill is one of the most comprehensive pieces of water legislation ever passed,” says Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB). “Specifically for Oklahoma, it provides funds for the statewide Comprehensive Water Plan as well as several vital water projects that have been on hold for some time. Senator Inhofe’s tremendous leadership has been instrumental in obtaining WRDA consideration for Oklahoma projects. In fact, our entire Congressional delegation has worked to ensure that Oklahoma’s water resource needs are brought to the forefront.”
The last WRDA legislation was passed in 2000. Senator Inhofe has been particularly keen on securing federal funds required for the study of water use and identification of future water needs in Oklahoma. The bill specifically targets water planning in Oklahoma by providing $6.5 million to update the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), administered by the OWRB. Last summer, the Oklahoma State Legislature appropriated funds through the Gross Production Tax for the Water Plan update, a five-year study that is now well underway. While this funding goes a long way toward the overall planning effort, according to Smith, federal matching dollars will be particular valuable in underwriting technical studies and accessing related engineering resources available through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The major focus of this new Water Plan is to establish long-term plans for Oklahoma’s water systems, provide the necessary infrastructure and water supply for future growth, and through various studies, discover potential solutions to the state’s most imminent water problems and issues,” says Smith. “This unprecedented analysis of Oklahoma’s water resources is an enormous undertaking and will require federal assistance. The persistence and dedication of our Congressional delegation are making this all possible.”
The WRDA bill also specifically includes funding for water and wastewater projects across the state that are within the scope of the OCWP for the communities of Ada, Norman, Bethany, Woodward, Durant, Ardmore, Midwest City, Guymon, Bartlesville, Mustang, and several others, as well as $5 million for water-related infrastructure improvement projects at the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, near Altus.
Some of the other provisions include the creation of a lake advisory committee at Lake Eufaula, removing restrictions on local development plans at Lake Texoma, and encouraging recreational development on all of Oklahoma’s Corps lakes through public-private partnerships.
“I especially want to thank Senator Inhofe and his staff, and in particular John Collison, State Director for Senator Inhofe, for their efforts in keeping the lines of communication open between Washington D.C., the OWRB, and our sister state agencies,” says Smith. “Oklahoma is very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of advocates for the management and protection of the state’s water resources.”
Second Water Appreciation Day Set for May 8
The second annual Capitol Water Appreciation Day will be held May 8, 2007, 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 Agriculture Day, GIS Day, Consumer Protection Day, and various other observations at the State Capitol, so it’s only appropriate that Oklahoma has at least one day each year devoted solely to recognizing the importance our water resources,” says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director. “This unique celebration of Oklahoma’s diverse water resources will not only help focus the attention of our Governor and Legislative leadership on water issues facing the state, but will also serve to recognize those who strive to protect Oklahoma's most precious natural resource.”
To mark the occasion, the Water Board has scheduled a press conference for 10:30 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, members of the Oklahoma State Legislature, and other officials.
The 2007 Water Day coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the OWRB, Oklahoma’s water agency, which was created in 1957 with the original charge of identifying water problems and proposing policies for fair and equitable water laws. The Board now directs staff in many areas, including the administration of permits for the beneficial use of stream and groundwater, studies of the quality and quantity of surface and groundwaters, oversight of nonfederal dam safety and a computer inventory of those dams, encouragement of responsible floodplain management, coordination of activities of four interstate stream compacts, monitoring of streamflows and groundwater levels, administration of loans and grants to communities to assist in the construction of water and wastewater facilities, development of Oklahoma Water Quality Standards to check water pollution, identification of pollution sources, and restoration of water quality. Late last year, the OWRB also initiated the update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, which will be completed in 2011.
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.
Governor Proclaims May Flood Awareness Month
OKLAHOMA CITY -- 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 376 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 Gavin Brady, 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. Brady points out that 87% of homes in Oklahoma’s designated floodplains have no flood insurance.
On an individual basis, Brady 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.
Also, OWRB partners with the Oklahoma Insurance Department in providing workshops for insurance agents and insurance adjustors. A listing of workshop dates and locations can be found at www.owrb.state.ok.us. Agents and adjusters can earn six Continuing Education Credits by attending one of these workshops. “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 Kim 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 and the National Flood Insurance Program, call Gavin Brady at 918/581-2924.
Water Quality Monitoring Compliments Langston University’s Curricula
The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and Langston University have launched a joint effort to integrate volunteer water quality monitoring into traditional college curriculum for the first time.
Training and certification by staff of the OWRB’s Oklahoma Water Watch (OWW) program as an official OWW water quality monitoring volunteer is now part of the service-learning and community service course requirement for agricultural sciences students enrolled in "Watershed Management" and “Natural Resources Management” taught by Dr. Raymond Faucette, and a new 3-hour service learning capstone course to be offered in the university’s Department of Agriculture & Natural Resources. Biology students participating in this training are recruited by Dr. Gnanambal Naidoo, Assistant Professor of Biology, and will team with agricultural sciences majors to help protect the state’s water resources. Faculty will also participate.
The Water Watch program is a volunteer water monitoring and educational program that encourages local efforts to protect and maintain the quality of rivers and lakes throughout Oklahoma. The program was created in 1992.
“Through this training activity, college students are not only honing in on their future professional careers, they are demonstrating civic and social responsibility in their community. Also, it will be great to see faculty and students learning and serving the community together,” says Dr. Bruce McGowan, Associate Professor at the School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, who is coordinating the joint effort on behalf of Langston University.
Training will be conducted by Water Watch staff with an initial session on March 28 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 413 of the Langston Agricultural Complex. Each class will receive basic instruction on limnology and watershed principles, nonpoint source pollution, best management practices, water conservation techniques, and safety procedures. The assigned OWW trainer will also provide detailed information on water sample collection techniques—including an overview and demonstration of each test parameter—and data reporting procedures. Following group field training, students will be certified as OWW Volunteer Monitors, allowing them to conduct periodic water quality assessments independently. Individual student groups will monitor for biological and chemical indicators of water quality impairments at Langston Lake, Guthrie Lake, Liberty Lake, Arcadia Lake, and Cushing Lake.
“The Water Board and coordinators of our volunteer monitoring program are excited about this special partnership,” says Derek Smithee, chief of the OWRB’s Water Quality Division. “These students are uniquely positioned to establish strong monitoring groups due to their knowledge of the science behind the tests and procedures. And the enthusiasm they bring to water quality protection can trigger instrumental change within local communities.”
For more information on Water Watch and the cooperative volunteer water quality monitoring program, contact Lynda Williamson at 405-530-8800.
Governor Declares March Flood Insurance Month
OKLAHOMA CITY – 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 39 presidentially declared disasters in Oklahoma since 1955, 29 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 378 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.
As an integral part of Oklahoma’s spring flood insurance 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 & Associates, the National Weather Service and RD Flanagan & Associates.
Training is the key, according to Gavin Brady, OWRB State Floodplain Manager. “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.” Additional information, including maps to each location, can be found at www.owrb.state.ok.us.
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.
More than 88 percent of homes and businesses in the state that lie in the 100-year floodplain have no flood insurance, according to Brady. “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," he said.
For more information on Flood Insurance Month, call Gavin Brady at 918-581-2924.
Canton Lake Water Release Scheduled
OKLAHOMA CITY-The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has announced plans for the release of 15,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake beginning next week to supplement supply in Oklahoma City’s central Oklahoma lakes.
Citing the local deficiency of water supply due to the ongoing drought, Oklahoma City officials have requested that the water release begin on or about January 22; 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 Canton Lake 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 OWRB and other members of the Canton Lake Committee met at Canton last month to discuss the release proposal. Oklahoma City serves on the Committee 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. The 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 group provides a valuable forum to discuss Canton Lake area concerns regarding recreation and fisheries.
“Recent dry conditions have really taken their toll on Oklahoma City’s local sources of supply,” according to OWRB Executive Director Duane Smith. “As always, the call for releases from Canton was done with considerable forethought by Oklahoma City in regard to impacts on recreation at the lake. Releases are coordinated to minimize impacts to fishing, waterfowl habitat, boating and other recreational interests, even under the most difficult of circumstances,” Smith points out.
The release of water could be interrupted should the North Canadian River watershed receive heavy runoff during the 8- to 10-day period. The release typically originates from the bottom of Canton dam to preserve oxygen levels in the water that are so critical to the lake’s fishery resources. Due at least in part to the state’s ongoing drought, the lake is currently down about 5½ feet. It is anticipated that the scheduled release will cause Canton Lake to drop an additional 2½ feet.
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