Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

Press Release
January 12, 2015

Public Forum in Tahlequah to Kick Off Pilot Study on Illinois River Flow Priorities

Officials and water planning specialists with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) have announced a public forum in Tahlequah regarding an upcoming pilot study to look at fish and recreation flow needs, also called “instream flows,” upstream of Tenkiller Reservoir on the Illinois River, Baron Fork Creek, and Flint Creek.

The OWRB will host the public forum on January 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center located at 100 North Water Street. The purpose of the forum is to provide information on the instream flow pilot study and to gather input from stakeholders.

A nineteen-member Instream Flow (ISF) Advisory Group helped formulate a priority recommendation in the 2012 Update of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), which included conducting an ISF pilot study in a scenic river. According to the OCWP, the concept of “instream flow” has evolved some over the years but generally describes the amount of water in a stream or river necessary to ensure downstream environmental, social and economic benefits are met.

The study, made possible through a partnership between the OWRB and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District, will evaluate whether and how an ISF program might be implemented in Oklahoma and will be designed to gain a better understanding of how to balance the needs of multiple users. A technical workgroup of scientists and experts will collect data and develop a detailed technical study work plan for future phases of the pilot study.

During the public forum in Tahlequah, the technical team will provide an overview of the planned study objectives with time for discussion and questions. Following the study overview, the team will solicit feedback on how stakeholders use water, their priorities, and other issues related to how potential future ISF guidelines might protect the basin’s important stream-related uses – i.e., boating, fishing, wildlife, riparian habitat, water quality, aesthetics, and general ecological health.

The technical team is also gathering information to characterize and understand the extent of consumptive uses of water in the Illinois River watershed, such as irrigation, industrial, municipal and domestic supply. However, this study is not being conducted with any proposed water development project in mind, nor does it include the operations of Tenkiller Reservoir or its dam.

As the pilot study progresses, the OWRB and technical workgroup will host future stakeholder forums and provide updates. The pilot study is expected be complete by December 2015.

For more information about the Illinois River pilot study, or the Instream Flow Advisory Group, please visit the Instream Flow Advisory Group web page, or contact Derek Smithee at 405-530-8800 or derek.smithee@owrb.ok.gov.


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