THE draft of the state's comprehensive water plan has been deemed inadequate by one southeastern Oklahoma lawmaker and has been met tepidly by two Indian tribes. Why are we not surprised?
State Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, is among a host of legislators from that part of the state who object to the idea of transferring water to other regions of Oklahoma or selling surplus water to out-of-state interests. Among other things, the water plan takes a stab at estimating how much surplus water might be available in the state's many watersheds and regions.
Those estimates, Cannaday says, don't include what will be needed for nonconsumptive uses such as tourism and recreation. He fears the plan's estimates could provide fodder for Texas entities that have gone to court to try to gain access to some of our surplus water.
Meanwhile an attorney for the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes says the definition of “surplus” can't be made until the tribes conclude a regional water study of their own and tribal water rights are addressed.
The head of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board defends the work done by his staff and says the issues raised by Cannaday and the tribes were considered. The OWRB spent five years and nearly $12 million on the study, which is expected to be formally approved by the agency in October.
The reactions to the report bolster our concern about whether a special House-Senate committee will actually be able to draft significant long-term policy. The water report is intended to serve as a blueprint for the committee, which includes members from across the state.