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Federal Court Dismisses Texas Water District Case
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The federal district court ruled today that the complaint by Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) seeking to divert more than 400,000 acre-feet of water (about 130 billion gallons) from tributaries of the Red River in Oklahoma should be dismissed.
In justifying the decision, the court determined that the plaintiffs were seeking water already apportioned by the Red River Compact between Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The Court noted that in oral argument TRWD had conceded that the desired water was indeed subject to the federal compact.
This ruling in favor of Oklahoma, which ends four years of litigation, was precipitated by a recent amendment to Oklahoma water laws clarifying that water compacted for use in Oklahoma was not available to other states without approval of the Oklahoma Legislature.
Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), asserted that “the legislature's recent enactment of House Bill 1483 framed this matter to clarify that interstate compacts, each approved by Congress, actually strengthen Oklahoma’s right to control the use of its water.” HB 1483 declared that no out-of-state water permit shall impair the State of Oklahoma from meeting its obligations under such compacts.
The State of Texas, although a member state of the Red River Compact, was not a party to the lawsuit.
Rudy Herrmann, Chairman of the OWRB, referred to the decision as "a complete victory for Oklahoma."
Water Board Approves Innovative “Green” Stimulus Projects
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) approved the state’s first Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) “green” projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The innovative proposals, funded through the OWRB’s traditional low-interest CWSRF program that assists communities with municipal wastewater infrastructure construction projects and other pollution control activities, were approved at the Board’s regular monthly meeting in Oklahoma City.
The total cost of the projects is $3,275,768, but all principal funding for the three recipients will be forgiven. At least 20 percent (approximately $6.3 million) of the OWRB's total ARRA funds will be expended for projects that address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements, or other environmentally innovative activities. Seven project proposals were received by the OWRB; the Board will consider the four remaining proposals at its October meeting. Each project has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Two of the projects approved Tuesday will seek to improve oxygen levels in major water supply lakes. Poteau Valley Improvement Authority, which obtains supply for its customers from eastern Oklahoma’s Lake Wister, plans to install a flow routing system to discharge anoxic water from the lake’s deeper areas. The total project cost is $582,995. Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which oversees Lake Thunderbird, near Norman, will use ARRA funds to implement a system, estimated at $692,773, to oxygenate lake water.
The third project, approved for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, commits $2 million to implement streambank stabilization and erosion control measures for identified sites in the Illinois River and Eucha/Spavinaw Creek watersheds. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will assist in the effort, which seeks to reduce the amount of nutrients, sediment, and bacterial contributed to those waters.
To date, the OWRB has approved 48 water and wastewater projects – all at least partially funded through ARRA funds – totaling more than $266 million. All of Oklahoma’s water and wastewater stimulus money should be approved by October 2009.
For specific information on Oklahoma’s stimulus water and wastewater projects, contact the OWRB at 405-530-8800.
OWRB Lauds Water Legislation
On Wednesday, Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation received high praise for its initiation and support of legislation that will fund a dozen or more state water planning studies. HR 3183, the fiscal 2010 Energy-Water appropriations bill, passed the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday by a convincing 320-97 vote.
According to Duane Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), “The bill contains funding for crucially important water management studies, evaluations of both public and agricultural supplies, and identification of alternatives to meet future water needs – all initiatives championed by Senator Jim Inhofe and supported by every member of our House delegation.”
The Energy-Water bill also delineates spending levels for programs administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation for fiscal year 2010. The Senate is preparing to take up its version of the bill in the coming weeks.
Smith adds that the $30 million included in the bill will underwrite the Red River Chloride Control Project, a plan conceptualized almost half a century ago to augment water supplies in arid southwest Oklahoma. Another study will identify alternatives to augment water dependability at Lake Lugert-Altus, a major source of irrigation in that region. The bill further contemplates major investigations of water resources in southeast Oklahoma.
“We should consider ourselves fortunate to have forward-thinking individuals, who, much like Oklahoma’s former water pioneers in Washington D.C., are dedicated to the protection and preservation of our most precious natural resource. I know that if Carl Albert, Robert S. Kerr, and others were alive today, they would join me in applauding our current Congressional leaders for this initiative,” Smith points out.
Almost $2 million is included in the legislation specifically to support quantity and quality studies that are part of the ongoing update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP). The OCWP is entering the fourth year of a five-year update.
“The primary intent of the Water Plan is to conduct an exhaustive inventory of water supplies and evaluate future needs, and then utilize that data to identify feasible alternatives in every region of the state – through infrastructure and additional supply development – that can satisfy those anticipated foreseeable demands,” Smith adds. “But beyond studies and data and reports, these appropriations will help us actually implement solutions in areas where we see gaps in current or future supply.”
Smith also endorses the process through which Oklahoma’s water project needs were identified. The OWRB has been working with its federal partners at the Corps of Engineers and Bureau, as well as Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and staff, to implement a state-driven planning approach.
With the Water Plan, he adds, the OWRB has retooled its planning process through robust public participation that seeks to establish local needs based on citizen input, utilizing the state’s technical expertise to design projects. Similarly, Oklahoma is taking its water needs to the federal government and using its considerable expertise and experience to implement state water projects.
“For years, the Corps and other federal agencies have selected water projects based on national, rather than state, priorities and concerns. State water agencies, which are most familiar with the needs of their citizens, are rarely afforded input into the Congressional authorization and funding process and thus viable state projects are often overshadowed by the federal government’s perception of state needs. The result being that many projects are designed in response to local, rather than regional, problems and issues,” Smith explains.
“But today, with support from our federal partners, we’ve established a project evaluation process focusing on broad-based water planning initiatives that not only provides more bang for the buck, but results in defensible funding decisions. Working with our Congressional delegation and leadership in the Oklahoma Legislature, I am confident that very soon the Oklahoma Model will become the benchmark by which all cooperative planning will be measured,” Smith says.
Water Board Approves Nine Stimulus Water & Wastewater Projects
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) approved more than $48.6 million to fund state drinking water projects and $13.7 million for clean water projects funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The loans, approved at the Board’s regular monthly meeting in Oklahoma City, will help underwrite federal stimulus projects specifically targeted for drinking water system and clean water infrastructure improvements in Oklahoma.
The funds are derived from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which is administered cooperatively between the OWRB and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the OWRB’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).
Public drinking water systems receiving ARRA grants, combined with low-interest DWSRF loans, are Bryan County Rural Water, Sewer, & Solid Waste Management District #2 ($382,000), McCurtain County Rural Water District #8 ($7,038,410), Bartlesville Municipal Authority ($9,820,000), Norman Utilities Authority ($14,000,000), and Washington County Rural Water District No. 3 ($17,394,645). The Water Board also approved four ARRA/CWSRF loans for Collinsville Municipal Authority ($683,040), Ponca City Utility Authority ($890,000), Grove Municipal Services Authority ($1,900,000), and Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust ($10,000,000).
To date, the OWRB has approved 17 water and wastewater projects – all partially funded through ARRA funds – totaling more than $131 million. All of Oklahoma’s water and wastewater stimulus money should be obligated by early 2010.
For each state water/wastewater stimulus project, Oklahoma’s program is targeting a 30-percent grant funding level, all from federal ARRA appropriations, with either a CWSRF or DWSRF low-interest loan comprising the remaining 70 percent of the awarded funds. In all, the OWRB is leveraging about $62 million in available federal stimulus funds with loans from the DWSRF as well as the agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program to underwrite at least 50 targeted water and wastewater system projects throughout the state.
Eligible DWSRF projects include construction of new water treatment facilities, replacement or rehabilitation of existing facilities, storage, distribution, raw water transmission lines, intakes, pump stations, and other related projects. The DEQ prioritizes DWSRF loan applicants according to a variety of factors, but the program primarily targets systems experiencing drinking water system deficiencies that cause noncompliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and thus pose a potential public health risk.
Eligible CWSRF projects include construction of new wastewater facilities or the replacement or rehabilitation of existing treatment facilities, inflow and infiltration correction, collector and interceptor sewers, combined sewer overflow correction, and related projects.
For specific information on Oklahoma’s stimulus water projects, contact the OWRB at 405-530-8800 or the DEQ at 405-702-8100.
Arbuckle-Simpson Meeting Set for August 18 in Ada
On August 18, the OWRB will host an informal public meeting to present results of the Arbuckle-Simpson Hydrology Study and to solicit input on management strategies for the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. The meeting will be held at the Pontotoc Technology Center in Ada, Oklahoma, from 1 to 6 p.m.
Following an overview of the study by project coordinator Noel Osborn, Scott Christenson with the U.S. Geological Survey will discuss the hydrogeology of the aquifer, how the groundwater flow model was developed, and the results of the management simulations. Derek Smithee, OWRB Water Quality Division Chief, will discuss results of surface water studies regarding the protection of streams and springs. Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director, will follow with a discussion of possible management strategies of the aquifer and will solicit input from the audience.
The Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer underlies more than 500 square miles in south-central Oklahoma and provides water for municipal, irrigation, mining, fisheries, recreation, and wildlife conservation purposes. The eastern portion of the aquifer provides drinking water to approximately 39,000 people in Ada, Sulphur, and the surrounding area, and was designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a sole-source aquifer. The aquifer is the source of a number of important springs in the region, including Byrds Mill Spring, Ada’s primary drinking water source, and springs in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Major headwater streams originating in the aquifer, including Blue River, Pennington, Mill, Travertine, Honey, and Hickory Creeks, are sustained throughout the year by groundwater discharge to springs and seeps.
Because of concerns that large-scale withdrawals of groundwater could result in declining flow in streams and springs, the State Legislature passed Senate Bill 288 in May 2003. The bill imposed a moratorium on the proposed groundwater permits until the Oklahoma Water Resources Board completed a hydrologic investigation of the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer and approves a maximum annual yield that will not reduce the natural flow of water from springs or streams emanating from the aquifer.
The Arbuckle-Simpson Hydrology Study was initiated in October 2003 to obtain information necessary to determine how much water can be withdrawn from the aquifer while protecting springs and steams. A multidisciplinary team of researchers employed several methods to obtain and interpret information on the climate, geology, groundwater, and streamflow. Key to understanding the aquifer was the development of a digital groundwater flow model by the U.S. Geological Survey. The model, which simulates groundwater flow and discharge to streams, was used to estimate the effects of aquifer-scale groundwater withdrawals on streamflow.
After reviewing suggested strategies from the August 18 public meeting and working with stakeholders, OWRB staff will make recommendations to the Board for the maximum annual yield and other management strategies. The Board will then issue a Tentative Order for the maximum annual yield. A formal public hearing on the Tentative Order will be held in the area of the Arbuckle-Simpson Groundwater Basin. Following the formal public hearing, the Board will proceed to issue its Final Order determining the maximum annual yield of the basin.
Registration is free, but space may be limited. To register, call the OWRB at (405) 530-8800 or Click Here to REGISTER ONLINE.
Water Board Approves First Stimulus Water Projects
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On Tuesday morning, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board approved the first round of state water and wastewater infrastructure stimulus projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Communities receiving ARRA grants, combined with OWRB Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loans, are Moore ($32 million), Tulsa ($8,375,000), Mustang ($8,140,000), Harrah ($1,630,000), and Pawnee ($1,575,000). In all, $51,720,000 in combined ARRA and CWSRF funds will be used to underwrite these projects, which will both create jobs and fund improvements to local wastewater treatment and disposal systems.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Secretary of State Susan Savage told Water Board members that the agency had done a “marvelous job” in expeditiously preparing the projects and funds for approval. “These projects will help meet critical needs in Oklahoma as well as add value to people’s lives,” she said.
Created in 1987 and supported through capitalization grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the CWSRF sustains a low-interest loan program specifically designed to assist communities with municipal wastewater infrastructure construction projects and related pollution control measures. The OWRB will leverage about $62 million in available federal stimulus funds with loans from the CWSRF as well as the agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program – a sister program that specifically targets water supply system projects – to underwrite at least 50 targeted water and wastewater system projects throughout the state. The DWSRF program is administered cooperatively by the OWRB and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ).
“Oklahoma should see immediate and quantifiable impacts from these five projects in terms of construction jobs and the ripple effect through the state’s economy. But the long-term benefits in terms of more efficient wastewater treatment and improved water quality in our streams and lakes are almost immeasurable,” says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director.
“It’s encouraging that the federal government has chosen to make these special funds available,” Smith adds. “With so many other priorities and limited fiscal resources, Oklahoma communities are often forced to postpone or shelve much-needed water and sewer projects. Communities shouldn’t have to choose between good roads and schools and ensuring safe and dependable water for their citizens.”
For each project, Oklahoma’s program is targeting a 30-percent grant funding level, all from federal ARRA appropriations, with either a CWSRF or DWSRF low-interest loan comprising the remaining 70 percent of the awarded funds. Consistent with the accelerated approach of the federal stimulus funding mechanism, all of Oklahoma’s water and wastewater stimulus money should be obligated and all associated engineering and environmental plans completed by November.
Because the federal government requires a high level of responsibility to guide usage of ARRA money, the OWRB has established an unprecedented financial oversight mechanism for its funding process.
“While the OWRB’s existing financial assistance mechanism is virtually unmatched in its level of accountability, we have modified our procedures to provide even more efficiency and transparency to Oklahoma taxpayers, especially concerning the tracking and reporting of expenditures. We’re striving not just to meet federal guidelines, but to exceed them,” says Joe Freeman, chief of the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Division.
The agency utilizes a formula-based priority ranking system that objectively rates loan and grant applicants and their proposed projects by awarding points for various criteria. The OWRB ranks each CWSRF project according to its projected contributions to human health protection, federal Clean Water Act goals, state water quality standards protection, and nonpoint source management. Additional points are awarded to projects in priority or high quality watersheds. The ODEQ prioritizes DWSRF loan applicants according to a variety of factors, but the program primarily targets systems experiencing drinking water system deficiencies that cause noncompliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and thus pose a potential public health risk.
Also in concert with federal ARRA goals and guidance, additional priority points are awarded to “green” infrastructure projects, or those that incorporate water and energy efficiency, stormwater runoff mitigation, or other environmentally innovative activities in Oklahoma.
For specific information on Oklahoma’s stimulus water projects, contact Joe Freeman at 405-530-8800.
Water Well Measurements to Update Information on Central Oklahoma’s Garber-Wellington Aquifer
OKLAHOMA CITY–Beginning Tuesday, February 17, state and federal water researchers will initiate an extensive effort to gather data from hundreds of water wells in central Oklahoma. The two-week project, involving hydrologists and geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Oklahoma Water Resources Board, is part of the initial phase of the multi-year cooperative Garber-Wellington Water Management Study.
Approximately 300 wells will be measured to help scientists answer vital questions related to the aquifer’s long-term water supply potential and to identify water quality concerns. Specifically, resulting data will be compared with water level information collected by the USGS in the late 1980s to determine how aquifer storage has changed over the past 20 years.
The Garber-Wellington, also referred to as the Central Oklahoma aquifer, underlies almost 3,000 square miles, including all or part of Oklahoma, Lincoln, Cleveland, Logan, and Pottawatomie County. Wells tapping the aquifer can yield as much as 600 gallons per minute. However, the groundwater basin is being heavily utilized for domestic and public water supply to support rapid population growth in the region. In addition, although water from the Garber-Wellington is normally suitable for public water supply, in some areas natural concentrations of nitrate, arsenic, chromium, selenium, and uranium exceed safe drinking water standards.
At least the first year of the study is being funded through the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP). The OCWP, which serves as a roadmap for state water policy and development, was originally completed in 1980 but is being updated for submittal to the State Legislature in 2012.
For more information on the Garber-Wellington Water Management Study or the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, contact Noel Osborn or Bob Fabian at 405-530-8800 or visit the OWRB’s website at www.owrb.ok.gov.
Grand Lake Wastewater System Receives EPA Water Quality Award
OKLAHOMA CITY –The Grand Lake Public Works Authority, which has been responsible for considerable wastewater handling improvements in northeast Oklahoma, has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to fund and implement wastewater treatment system improvements.
At its monthly meeting on February 10, the members of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board officially recognized the Authority’s recent receipt of the 2008 Performance and Innovation in the SRF [State Revolving Fund] Creating Environmental Success, or “PISCES,” Award. The EPA award specifically recognizes states and communities that have exhibited innovation and exemplary financial performance in advancing EPA's Clean Water Act goals. Attending the meeting, with the PISCES award in hand, were Dick Seybolt and Steve Garrett, members of the GLPWA Board of Directors.
“The OWRB joins EPA in recognizing the Grand Lake Public Works Authority for their innovation and foresight of action in helping to resolve the water quality problems of one of Oklahoma’s most treasured resources,” says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director.
Combining $335,000 in OWRB State Revenue Bond Loan Program funds with $3,500,000 from the Clean Water SRF Loan Program through the OWRB, Grand Lake Public Works Authority constructed a centralized wastewater collection and treatment project to serve Monkey Island residents in Delaware County. For years, an over-abundance of lakeside septic tanks have been the cause of water quality problems in Grand Lake, one of the nation’s premier retirement and recreation areas.
The new system consolidates eight separate regional septic systems into one multiple cell lagoon treatment facility on a 60-acre site. It includes a total of 68,551 linear feet of sewer lines, a two-cell partial mix aerated lagoon, settling cell, storage pond, and three lift stations. Treated water from the facility is utilized to irrigate the golf course at Monkey Island, reducing the amount of commercial fertilizer required by the golf course.
“EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund is committed to both innovative and sustainable water quality financing. Grand Lake Public Works Authority is similarly committed to improving the quality of life for its residents—as demonstrated by this project,” according to Joe Freeman, Chief of the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Division.
For more information on the PISCES Award or OWRB’s Financial Assistance Program, contact Joe Freeman at 405-530-8800 or visit the OWRB’s Web site at www.owrb.state.ok.us.
New Grant Program Promotes Water Conservation Projects
OKLAHOMA CITY—The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) is soliciting proposals and applications for grants to promote the implementation of pilot water conservation projects in Oklahoma communities.
The Oklahoma Water Conservation Grant Program, administered by the OWRB and created through passage of House Bill 3135 last year, makes available a total of $35,000 during the 2009 grant cycle. Individual grant awards for any proposal, plan, or project are limited to a maximum of $7,000. The deadline for submittal of grant applications is February 20, 2009.
Innovative projects that can serve as models for other communities will be given the most serious consideration. Specific program criteria that will enhance opportunities for selection include projects that will result in significant or measurable water efficiency improvements or water savings. The amount of matching funds and/or in-kind contributions provided by the applicant will also receive priority.
Projects eligible for Oklahoma Water Conservation Program grants include community conservation demonstration projects, water use accounting programs, retrofit projects, school education projects, xeriscape demonstration gardens, and information campaigns on capturing and using harvested rainwater and graywater. Eligible applicants include cities and towns, schools, non-profit corporations, and rural water districts. OWRB rules governing the program are being finalized.
The Oklahoma Water Conservation Grant Program's initial implementation is being funded through existing Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan appropriations. The Water Plan is due for completion in late 2011.
For additional information or to download a Water Conservation Grant application packet, please visit the OWRB’s website at www.owrb.ok.gov or call Terri Sparks at the OWRB at 405/530-8800.
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Page last updated: March 26, 2012