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Press Releases

December 15, 2010

Oklahoma Lakes and Maps Featured in New Publication

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) have teamed up to offer, free of charge, a new 178-page publication, “Lakes of Oklahoma.”

This comprehensive source of information contains maps and related data for 146 reservoirs, including 58 state and federal lakes and an additional 88 public lakes. Free copies are available for pickup at the OWRB’s Oklahoma City office (3800 North Classen Boulevard), ODWC headquarters in Oklahoma City (1801 North Lincoln Boulevard), or the ODWC’s Jenks office (300 South Aquarium Drive). The OWRB will mail individual copies for $10 to cover postage and handling.

“We are extremely proud of this new publication,” says J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director and Secretary of Environment. “It is an invaluable source of information on Oklahoma’s lakes, which provide countless benefits to Oklahomans, including public water supply, fishing, recreation, hydropower, and industrial uses, bolstering economic development for our state.”

Sportsmen helped fund the production of the new publication through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, a tremendous example of a partnership program between anglers and boaters and private industries, state government and federal government. The manufacturers of fishing gear, such as rods, reels, fishing tackle and fish finders, pay an excise tax at first sale. Additionally, gasoline fuels are taxed and a portion of those dollars from motorboats and small engines are dedicated to the Sport Fish Restoration Program. The federal government collects these taxes and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service administers and disburses these funds to state fish and wildlife agencies, such as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters ultimately pay these taxes through the purchase of products.

“The anglers and boaters who purchase these taxed products ultimately benefit since wildlife agencies must spend this money on projects, such as this publication, sport fish habitat restoration, population management, user access, facilities, and education,” says John Stafford, federal aid coordinator for the Wildlife Department.

“Lakes of Oklahoma” differs from the “Oklahoma Water Atlas,” last published in 2007, in that it focuses solely on the many lakes and reservoirs that make Oklahoma a unique place to live and recreate. Since publication of the atlas, OWRB staff have worked with lake owners, operators, and appropriate state and federal agencies to update pertinent data and other relevant information. Lake bottom contours for 18 lakes have also been added. Maps include the locations of recreational features — parks, campgrounds, boat ramps, public access points, wildlife management areas, and other points of interest — as well as local geography, drainage, fish structures and roads. Lakes of Oklahoma also provides a wealth of background information on lake construction, storage allocations, and other reservoir data, and includes special sections on water quality and aquatic nuisance species.

For more information on the “Lakes of Oklahoma,” call the OWRB at (405) 530-8800.


November 3, 2010

Three Named Oklahoma Water Pioneers

Oklahoma’s outgoing Attorney General, a municipal water law official, and a retired state water planner were all recognized last week as Oklahoma Water Pioneers for 2010.

Receiving the Oklahoma Water Pioneer award – conferred each year to those individuals who have made lifetime contributions to the planning, development, management, and conservation of Oklahoma’s water resources – were Drew Edmondson, Diane Pedicord, and Mike Melton. OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong presented the awards during the Governor’s Water Conference luncheon ceremony on October 26.

Drew Edmondson was elected Attorney General in 1994, and was re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006. He has fought vigorously to protect Oklahoma's water resources, both from a quality and quantity perspective. Most notably, in 2005, after years of negotiations, Edmondson filed suit on behalf of the state against more than a dozen poultry companies alleging illegal waste dumping practices in the Illinois River Watershed.

Diane Pedicord is General Counsel and Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs for the Oklahoma Municipal League. A long-time authority on the state’s water law, for many years she has worked closely with the OWRB and others to guide Oklahoma water law and policy, especially in a manner consistent with long-term municipal planning goals. She currently facilitates the Oklahoma Water Law Group, a consortium of large water users.

Mike Melton served the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for 38 years as a field engineer, division chief, Legislative Liaison and Assistant Director. As chief of the OWRB’s Planning Division, he was successful in acquiring much-needed federal assistance for state water planning projects. He also coordinated early development of the original Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), also serving as Chairman of the OCWP Planning Committee.

Since its inception in 1985, more than 100 Oklahomans have been honored with the Water Pioneer award, which is selected by sponsors of the Water Conference. The Governor’s Water Conference, held annually in the fall, attracts hundreds of people from across the U.S. to discuss state and national water issues. The event is hosted by the OWRB.

October 12, 2010

J.D. Strong Approved As New Water Board Director

At its October meeting on Tuesday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board unanimously approved J.D. Strong as the agency's new executive director. Strong, who also currently serves as Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, assumed the interim director position upon Duane Smith’s retirement and leave of absence last February.

Strong started his career at the OWRB as an environmental scientist for several years prior to joining the Secretary of Environment’s office. He was appointed by Governor Henry to that cabinet position in August 2008.


June 11, 2010

OWRB Approves Transfer of Sardis Lake Storage to Oklahoma City

Agreement Would Address State Obligation, Meet Projected Growth, and Protect Southeast Oklahoma Water Needs

On Friday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) approved a transfer agreement that will resolve once-and-for-all the State’s 36-year-old water storage contract obligation to the federal government for construction of Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma, as well as provide options to help satisfy central Oklahoma’s long-term water supply needs. In addition to satisfying the State’s immediate need to make its next court-ordered payment to the federal government by July 1, significant water will be reserved to meet local needs well into the foreseeable future.

The Sardis Lake storage contract transfer agreement, which was considered and approved by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (OCWUT) on Monday, was similarly approved, with minor modifications, by the OWRB on Friday. The agreement effectively transfers the State of Oklahoma’s water storage rights at Sardis to Oklahoma City, along with the state’s existing obligation to the federal government. OCWUT would also reimburse the State for past Sardis water storage payments and costs. A recent federal district court order requires Oklahoma to pay off, within five years, its $27 million obligation for the construction of additional water supply storage in Sardis Lake, with the next payment due by July 1.

“This agreement was constructed with three critically important objectives in mind, that is to satisfy the state’s longstanding Sardis Lake obligation, secure water supply options for central Oklahoma’s water needs, and preserve the lake’s considerable value to the citizens of southeast Oklahoma,” said J. D. Strong, OWRB Interim Executive Director.

Through the transfer agreement, coupled with an existing application for water rights in the basin, which will be considered next, OCWUT seeks to acquire 136,000 acre-feet of drinking water per year to share with central Oklahoma communities, which collectively face near-term water deficits. In a critical facet of the agreement, 20,000 acre-feet of water is reserved for both current and future water needs in the Sardis Lake region. This significant set-aside, coupled with a requirement for a lake level management plan, will help ensure that Sardis Lake continues to provide important flood control, recreation, water supply, and related benefits to the local area.

Through a separate public hearing process, the OWRB will address Oklahoma City’s permit application for the right to use water from the basin. “As with all applications for surface water, the OWRB will hold formal public proceedings to ensure that sufficient water is available and existing rights are not impaired,” added Strong. Preliminary information compiled as part of the ongoing Comprehensive Water Plan process suggests that Oklahoma City’s request can be met without impacting other uses or projected future needs in the area, but all data and information will be thoroughly examined before a final decision is made by the OWRB.

In 1974, the Oklahoma Water Storage Commission, a predecessor agency to the OWRB, justified underwriting Sardis construction costs based partly on the potential for central Oklahoma to utilize it to meet future water supply needs. However, until now, no significant users contracted to use the water and assume the State’s annual storage payments. As a result, the Sardis contract has been in contention for decades. The Regional Raw Water Supply Study for Central Oklahoma, an engineering study commissioned by the Oklahoma Regional Water Utilities Trust (ORWUT) in 2009, determined that central Oklahoma possesses insufficient water supply to meet projected needs in the region beyond 2030, and a new water resource will be required. The study identified Sardis Lake as the most feasible option for meeting this water deficit.


June 4, 2010

OWRB Director Announces Retirement

Duane Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, has announced his retirement after 32 years of service with the State of Oklahoma and the OWRB. Smith, who began a six-month leave of absence from the Board in February, has been working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers overseeing water and infrastructure development in Afghanistan. While home on leave this week, he informed the Board of his decision.

J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, who has served as interim executive director in Smith’s absence, will continue in that capacity until the nine-member Board can consider long-term plans for a permanent replacement, according to Board Chairman Rudy Herrmann.

Smith has led the agency since 1997, but has served the OWRB in various other capacities since joining the agency as a hydrologist in 1978. Under Smith’s leadership, the Board initiated its ongoing update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan, a five-year planning project designed to formulate a fifty-year water needs assessment and management plan to meet Oklahoma's future water needs. Under his direction, the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Program has provided more than two billion dollars in water and wastewater system improvements to more than two-thirds of Oklahoma communities and rural water districts. Smith also helped establish the state’s first statewide water quality monitoring program and well drillers’ certification program. He has been recognized as a national leader in the development of water policy, serving as Chairman of the Western States Water Council from 2006 to 2008. At the time of his deployment to Afghanistan, he hoped that his work to establish water and wastewater services for the Afghan people would help ease tensions in the war-torn region.

“To say that Duane will be sorely missed by the State of Oklahoma is an understatement,” remarked Secretary Strong. “Duane has capably served the OWRB for over 30 years, and his leadership on numerous water initiatives of significant importance to the state has earned him well-deserved respect both in Oklahoma and nationally.”

Strong started his career at the OWRB as an environmental scientist for several years prior to joining the Secretary of Environment’s office. He was appointed by Governor Henry to that cabinet position in August 2008.

For more information, contact the OWRB at 405-530-8800.


May 21, 2010

USGS and University Students To Conduct Aquifer Field Study May 25-28

OKLAHOMA CITY – The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Oklahoma Water Science Center and geology students from the University of Tulsa and Oklahoma State University will conduct a field investigation in the greater Oklahoma City area next Tuesday through Friday, May 25-28. The investigation is part of the Garber-Wellington Water Management Study.

According to researchers, the focus of the effort is to gather data on geologic properties of rock outcroppings in the Garber Sandstone, part of the Garber-Wellington aquifer, central Oklahoma’s primary groundwater source. The research team will use a handheld device to record the natural, low-level gamma-ray radiation emitted by the Garber Sandstone. The collected data will then be correlated with other information obtained from water wells in central Oklahoma to create a groundwater–flow model of the aquifer that will be used to predict the impacts of long-term groundwater withdrawals and simulate water management strategies.

The Garber-Wellington Study was initiated in June 2008 to address growing concerns about the future of water availability in central Oklahoma. The multi-year investigation, which involves comprehensive data collection and characterization of the Garber-Wellington aquifer, is conducted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in cooperation with the USGS, Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Oklahoma Geological Survey, and Tinker Air Force Base. The study is funded in part by the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan.

For more information on the study, contact the OWRB at 405-530-8800.


April 13, 2010

Konawa Receives OWRB Grant to Resolve Water Problems

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board authorized vital funding to resolve long-standing water supply problems suffered by citizens in Konawa. The OWRB Emergency Grant of $78,937 was approved at the Water Board’s monthly meeting held in Oklahoma City.

Konawa’s water distribution system, which serves 675 customers, is supplied by a well field located along the Canadian River in southwest Seminole County. However, the water wells are shallow, distribution lines are old, and pumps have experienced recurring problems.

Last month, failure of a water pump and subsequent leaks in distribution lines led to a temporary interruption in water service to hundreds of Konawa customers. Water pressure issues were soon resolved, but the situation prompted the state Department of Environment Quality to issue a boil warning for residents until water samples confirmed that the system was clear of bacterial contamination.

The estimated $92,867 project – funded through the OWRB Emergency Grant combined with $13,930 in local funds – involves the construction of a new three-mile primary water line along with new water transfer pumps. Formal construction begins this week with completion anticipated within two months.

For information on the OWRB’s Emergency Grant Program or other agency financing initiatives, call (405) 530-8800.


February 10, 2010

EPA Regional Administrator, State Leaders Praise Oklahoma’s Stimulus Program

During Oklahoma’s Water Appreciation Day at the State Capitol on Tuesday, the newly-appointed regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency joined state legislative and appointed officials in recognizing the substantial work accomplished by state agencies and communities in implementing federal stimulus water and wastewater projects.

“We are proud of what Oklahoma has been able to do under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” according to Al Armendariz, Administrator of EPA’s Region Six, which includes Oklahoma. “When the Act provided an opportunity to preserve and create jobs, and invest in critical environmental areas like water infrastructure, Oklahoma seized that opportunity. It was one of the first states in the country to qualify for and to spend their money on needed projects – to clean polluted waters and to improve drinking water. We congratulate the State of Oklahoma for their hard work, taking full advantage of all that the Recovery Act could provide for the people and environment of Oklahoma.”

Armendariz contributed remarks during a brief ceremony in the House Chamber, which was hosted by Rudy Herrmann, Chairman of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment and OWRB Interim Executive Director. “Dr. Armendariz and others specifically recognized Water Board and Department of Environmental Quality staff for their dedication in administering more than $63 million in federal stimulus funding in less than a year’s time. Without a doubt, that recognition is much-deserved,” according to Strong.

“We are the first state in the region to obligate its ARRA funds ahead of schedule and I commend the OWRB, DEQ, and our cities and towns for that significant accomplishment. While the work was difficult and time-consuming, it was well worth the effort in that it benefited not only our state’s economy but our environment as well,” said Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. More than a dozen of the 44 Oklahoma communities who received stimulus funds were also in attendance at Water Appreciation Day. The OWRB and its Financial Assistance Program, consisting of five loan and grant offerings, was also recognized for exceeding the $2 billion funding level since its inception in 1982.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution designating February 9, 2010, as "Water Appreciation Day" in Oklahoma. Numerous state agencies and organizations were on hand at the Capitol to demonstrate their respective efforts in managing and protecting the state’s water resources.

Also on hand at the Water Day ceremony were Speaker Chris Benge and Senator David Myers, who expressed their gratification to the many water agencies and communities who work collectively to foster vital infrastructure improvements throughout the state. “Water is of such importance to Oklahoma and that is especially evident in the number of water issues that we address each year in the State Legislature. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” said Speaker Benge.

“Too often, we take our water resources for granted. But there is nothing as important as reliable water supply, especially in rural areas of our state,” added Senator Myers.

DEQ Executive Director Steve Thompson, State Auditor/Inspector Steve Burrage, and OWRB Financial Assistance Division Chief Joe Freeman also contributed remarks during the event.

Water Appreciation Day is an annual event sponsored by the OWRB. For more information, contact Mike Melton at 405-530-8800.


January 21, 2010

Oklahoma Leads Region in the Obligation of Stimulus Water Project Funds

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have expedited the last of funding derived from state water and wastewater infrastructure stimulus money obtained through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone involved in this important process. With the help of these funds, we will advance important water projects in dozens of communities around the state, improve water quality, and boost economic activity in the process,” said Gov. Brad Henry.  

J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, echoed the Governor’s sentiments. “I am extremely proud of both state agencies, as all Oklahomans should be, in that we were one of only three states in the country and the first in the region to have all water and wastewater stimulus funds obligated and under contract well in advance of the February 17 Congressional deadline,” he says.

According to OWRB Executive Director Duane Smith, finalized contracts for 56 projects, approved by the nine-member Water Board since last April, are now in place. “Working under an aggressive timeline over the past nine or 10 months, our financial assistance staff has been incredibly efficient in getting ARRA funds out the door and on the ground in the form of much-needed water and sewer projects for Oklahoma communities. At the same time, they’ve had to comply with unprecedented federal oversight and intense interest from the public and media.”

By leveraging the initial $63 million dollar ARRA appropriation through the existing Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Drinking Water SRF programs, the OWRB and Department of Environmental Quality derived more than $183 million in total funding for 56 water and wastewater projects throughout Oklahoma. The estimated interest savings to Oklahoma communities is more than $168 million. The total infrastructure investment is almost $244 million.

“This effective partnership between the DEQ and Water Board puts Oklahoma in a strong position to address the state’s anticipated five billion dollar water and wastewater infrastructure gap over the next 20 years,” according to Steve Thompson, DEQ Executive Director. The DWSRF, which targets water supply system projects, is administered cooperatively by both the OWRB and DEQ while the CWSRF, which focuses on wastewater system construction, is directed solely by the OWRB.

In addition to more traditional DWSRF and CWSRF projects—such as treatment plant construction, upgrades, and rehabilitation; new and replaced lines; and stormwater detention basins—Oklahoma ARRA project funding expanded purposes to include "green" projects that innovatively seek to improve water and energy efficiency and that are beneficial to the environment. Examples include implementation of automated meter reading systems, riparian restoration, and “green” roofs specially designed to save energy and improve water quality.

For more information on Oklahoma’s stimulus water projects, contact Joe Freeman, chief of the OWRB’s Financial Assistance Division, at 405-530-8800, or Shellie Chard-McClary, director of the DEQ’s Water Quality Division, at 405-702-8100.


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