Governor Fallin Praises Water Resources Board for Top Workplace Award
On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin praised the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for its inclusion on a list of the state’s 50 best places to work. The OWRB is the only state agency named to the "Top Workplaces in Oklahoma,” released yesterday by The Oklahoman newspaper.
“The OWRB has always been a leader in providing high quality services to the citizens of Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. “I am not surprised agency employees take so much pride in their work. Congratulations to Executive Director J.D. Strong and his staff for being recognized as a ‘Top Workplace’ in Oklahoma.”
Determination of the Top Workplaces is based solely on employee feedback from independent surveys conducted by Workplace Dynamics, LLP, a leading research firm on organizational health and employee engagement.
“We are extremely proud and honored to be included among these superior organizations,” says Strong, “but it simply validates what I’ve known for years – that the OWRB is an amazing place to work because of its intelligent, dedicated and compassionate public servants.”
Board Chairman Rudy Herrmann adds, "Speaking on behalf of my fellow Board Members, we have long been impressed with the capabilities, professionalism and commitment of the OWRB staff. As such, I am very pleased that this group of dedicated state employees has received the recognition they so richly deserve."
Strong affirms, “The most rewarding aspect of this honor is that it is based on the sentiments of our staff. I look forward to utilizing the great feedback we received from the survey to identify ways we can further improve both our work environment and our service to the people of Oklahoma.”
Oklahoma’s water agency since 1957, the mission of the OWRB is to enhance the quality of life for Oklahomans by managing, protecting, and improving the state’s water resources to ensure clean, safe, and reliable water supplies, a strong economy, and a healthy environment. The primary duties and responsibilities of the agency—which employs approximately 100 scientists, engineers and financial analysts—include water use appropriation and permitting, water quality monitoring and standard-setting, financial assistance for water and sewer infrastructure, dam safety, floodplain management, water supply planning (including development of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan), technical studies and research, and water resource mapping.
S&P Gives OWRB Revenue Bonds Highest Possible Credit Rating
Long-term revenue bonds issued by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board recently received the highest credit rating possible from Standard and Poor’s (S&P) rating agency.
Standard & Poor’s raised its rating of the OWRB’s State Revenue Bond Loan Program (FAP) Financial Assistance Program obligations to triple-A. Joe Freeman, chief of the Water Board’s Financial Assistance Division, received notice of the upgrade earlier this month.
"This is great news for the municipalities and rural water and sewer districts that receive loans from our FAP program,” said J.D. Strong, executive director of the OWRB. “The interest rates on those loans will be lower than what they could receive in the conventional financing market.”
The AAA rating affects approximately $290 million in fixed-rate and variable-rate FAP bonds, Freeman said. It also will affect the sale next spring of FAP bonds whose proceeds will be earmarked for new construction, he said. The first FAP loan was made in 1986, and over the past 27 years the Water Resources Board has made 361 FAP loans totaling $891 million, ledgers reflect.
Altogether, the OWRB has issued 795 loans from its three loan programs – the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and the Financial Assistance Program fund – worth approximately $3 billion, Freeman said. Those loans have financed water and wastewater infrastructure improvements throughout the state.
In explaining why it boosted the OWRB’s FAP revenue bond rating to AAA, S&P wrote that the revision is “reflective of the program’s low industry risk score and very strong market position; extremely strong loss coverage score due to program reserves and annual coverage generated from borrower payments, which is bolstered by the excellent history of borrower repayment; and … generally strong financial policies and practices.”
The OWRB has reserves of $23.6 million in cash and investments, coupled with $28.5 million in surety bonds, the S&P report relates.
The credit rating agency also noted that a year ago Oklahoma voters approved State Question 764, which authorized the Water Board to issue up to $300 million in general obligation bonds “should additional funds be needed to avoid a default on bonds issued by” the OWRB.
Contact: Joe Freeman, Oklahoma Water Resources Board
Governor's Water Conference on Tap Next Week
The 34th Annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference and Research Symposium kicks off one week from tomorrow at the Sheraton-Reed Conference Center in Midwest City.
The theme of the two-day Conference/Symposium (October 22-23) is “The Future on Tap.” The event will feature dozens of prominent local, state and national water experts, including two candid “roundtable” discussions of key water policy and management issues.
Delivering the keynote address will be Steven Solomon, author of “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization.” He will recount the role of water in the power struggles, personalities, and breakthroughs that have shaped humanity, including ongoing problems of freshwater scarcity and the looming challenges driving political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.
The Conference/Symposium, co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and Oklahoma Water Resources Center, is expected to attract hundreds of water officials and citizens who share an avid interest in Oklahoma’s water resources and the latest developments concerning water management and quality, infrastructure financing, and other vital water issues.
In addition, two Oklahomans will be honored with the Oklahoma Water Pioneer Award, presented each year to those men and women who have made significant contributions in the planning, development, management, and conservation of Oklahoma’s water resources.
To register for the 34th Annual Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference and Research Symposium, visit http://www.owrb.ok.gov/news/waterconference.php. For more information, call 405-530-8800.
Statements on Today's Supreme Court Decision re: Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann
"Obviously, today’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is vindication for Oklahoma and the two neighboring Red River Compact states who joined with us to hold Texas accountable to the promises and provisions of our 33-year-old Compact agreement. It’s also a victory for the seven mostly arid western states who sided with Oklahoma and stood to lose at least as much control over their limited surface water supplies. Most importantly, though, this decision is a resounding victory for the citizens of Oklahoma and our ability to manage their water for their benefit. While the elegant defense of our position by Oklahoma's legal team spawned considerable optimism, it's a relief that the high court has reaffirmed our interpretation of long-settled agreements over the apportionment of interstate waters. After many years of legal maneuvering and saber-rattling, this should end, once and for all, Tarrant’s attempts to circumvent Oklahoma’s water management authority."
"Today's ruling is great news for the state of Oklahoma and yet another victory in the effort to protect our state's water resources. We've maintained all along that Oklahoma must have the ability to set its own water policy and today's unanimous Supreme Court decision solidifies that position. My congratulations go out to Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his office for their great work in this case on behalf of the state."
Council to Develop Water Conservation Strategy
Fifteen Oklahomans with unique and divergent perspectives on Oklahoma's water resources have been selected to develop a blueprint for stabilizing—and possibly even reducing—rising demands for Oklahoma’s finite freshwater resources, while at the same time protecting important growth and economic development goals.
Passed overwhelmingly by the 2012 State Legislature, the Water for 2060 Act made Oklahoma the first state in the nation to establish an ambitious goal of consuming no more freshwater in 2060 than is utilized today. The Act charges the Water for 2060 Advisory Council with studying and recommending appropriate water conservation and reuse practices, incentives, and educational programs to achieve this ambitious goal. Members are well versed in various water interests and were appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the State. The final appointment was made on May 22. Both the goal and the Council were a direct result of a priority recommendation of last year’s update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP) calling for moderation of water use patterns to avoid impending deficits projected by the plan.
“The Council’s charge mirrors one of the Water Plan’s most fundamental grassroots recommendations to identify truly effective, vetted and feasible measures through which we can reduce Oklahoma’s water footprint. The Water Plan provided the data, but the Council members will provide the real world experience in identifying those conservation incentives and measures that have the greatest likelihood of success,” says J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director, who will chair the Council.
In addition to Strong, the other fourteen members are Jim Bachmann (Tulsa), Lauren Brookey (Tulsa), Tom Buchanan (Altus), Bob Drake (Davis), Danny Galloway (Stillwater), Roger Griffin (Broken Bow), Charlette Hearne (Broken Bow), Mark Helm (Oklahoma City), Nathan Kuhnert (Oklahoma City), Phil Richardson (Minco), Kevin Smith (Enid), Trent Smith (Choctaw), Joe Taron (Shawnee) and Jerry Wiebe (Hooker).
“I am tremendously excited to work with this impressive group. Each and every Council member shares my commitment to preserving our increasingly limited water supplies. We all recognize that conservation and reuse represent Oklahoma’s most viable strategy to reduce or eliminate future water deficits and the resulting devastation to our economy,” Strong adds.
More information on the Council’s objectives, membership, and current activities is available at www.owrb.ok.gov.
Oklahoma Water Appreciation Day Set for March 19
The eighth annual Oklahoma Water Appreciation Day will be held March 19 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) will host the event featuring water agency and organization booths and displays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capitol’s 4th floor rotunda.
“Water Appreciation Day presents a unique opportunity for groups to demonstrate the importance of Oklahoma’s water resources as well as provide information on their water management, conservation, and educational programs for state legislators and other government officials,” says J.D. Strong, OWRB Executive Director. “This celebration of Oklahoma’s diverse water resources is especially appropriate now as we wrestle with the impacts of a third straight year of drought and continue to implement the major initiatives of the 2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan.”
Following five years of formal development, the 2012 OCWP Update was delivered last year to Governor Fallin and members of the State Legislature. The OCWP Executive Report, 13 watershed planning region reports and dozens of supporting documents include the results of numerous technical and policy studies of state water supplies, infrastructure needs, and priority water management issues.
The OWRB, Oklahoma’s water agency since 1957, continues its original charge of identifying water problems and proposing policies for fair and equitable water laws. Additionally, the OWRB has provided over $2.9 billion in loans and grants to assist communities and rural water districts in the construction of water and wastewater facilities, administers 12,688 permits for the beneficial use of stream and groundwater, studies the quality and quantity of surface and groundwaters, ensures the safety of private dams, encourages responsible floodplain management, coordinates four interstate stream compacts, monitors the quantity and quality of Oklahoma’s stream and groundwaters, develops Oklahoma Water Quality Standards to curb water pollution, identifies pollution sources, restores water quality, and oversees statewide water planning.
For more information on Water Appreciation Day, call Josh McClintock at 405-530-8800.
Governor Declares March Flood Insurance Month
Each year in Oklahoma, thousands of citizens experience flood damage but 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 Mary Fallin has designated March 2013 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,” says J.D. Strong, 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."
Strong points out that most flood insurance policies require a 30-day waiting period. “With the spring flooding season nearly upon us, now is the time for those citizens who reside in designated floodplains to purchase flood insurance, if they have not already,” he says, adding that a flood insurance policy can be purchased from any licensed property insurance agent.
In an effort to mitigate flooding emergencies, Governor Dewey Bartlett designated the OWRB as the agency to coordinate the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1969. The NFIP assists Oklahoma and its 393 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 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. The OWRB will also 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 numerous state, federal, and local floodplain experts and officials.
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.
Invasive Species Eradicated at Stanley Draper
National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW.org) begins this Sunday, March 3-8, providing an excellent opportunity to inform Oklahomans about the devastating effects of invasive species on the environment. Eradication of the invasive plant “phragmites” or “common reed” (Phragmites australis) at Lake Stanley Draper demonstrates that increased public awareness can be an effective tool. Growth of this plant appears to be under control after eradication efforts became part of a larger revegetation project.
In 2005, Oklahoma City began collaborating with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) on an EPA wetlands grant aimed at establishing native wetland plants along the perimeter and within the waters of Lake Stanley Draper. In assessing the project area, OWRB staff discovered a rapidly expanding phragmites population monopolizing many portions of the shoreline and reaching heights of up to fourteen feet. In the span of a few short years, this prolific reed, left unchecked, would have densely covered the entire shore of Lake Draper down into the first several feet of water. The almost impenetrable stands that develop would have destroyed any native grasses, shrubs, young trees, or aquatic plants, effectively replacing the diverse habitat for fish and wildlife with an almost sterile shoreline. According to Paul Koenig, limnologist for the OWRB, this plant would not only have changed the ecosystem but actually inhibited access to the water by visitors.
Once species identification was confirmed, the original EPA project was expanded to include active eradication. Oklahoma City lake staff applied specialized herbicide treatments made specifically safe for use in and around water sources. By 2010, the Phragmites population had been reduced by 79%. To ensure control of this prolific plant, Oklahoma City continued treatment through 2011. Since then, the population has continued to decline with only a very few unhealthy sprouts remaining.
Phragmites is one of 33 other non-native plant species threatening Oklahoma’s landscapes, lakes, and streams. Invasive species are not limited to plant life; there are many fish and other aquatic organisms that seriously damage the health of ecosystems across our state. Clearly, the first step in preventing the spread of these species is being able to identify them. More information is available at the Department of Wildlife’s website: www.wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/ans.htm.
A full report on the Lake Stanley Draper Revegetation project can be found at www.owrb.ok.gov/reports.
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Page last updated: December 16, 2013