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Legislative panel to study Oklahoma's water plan

The committee's goal will be to develop a long-range water policy for Oklahoma, legislative leaders say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: June 15, 2011

A joint legislative committee will review the state's comprehensive water plan and develop a long-range state water policy, legislative leaders said Tuesday.

“To develop a plan that works for all of Oklahoma, we must include all of Oklahoma,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The committee will take all interests into account, whether they are rural, urban, tribal, or anywhere in between.”

The committee will start its work later this year and continue to work during next year's legislative session. While the committee's immediate goal is to review the water plan, its ultimate purpose is developing a long-range water policy for Oklahoma, said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.

Drafts of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan have been publicly available since April. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is to approve a final version of the plan in October.

“The water board has labored for years to put together a fair, unbiased, evidence-based report on water in Oklahoma,” Steele said. “We must allow them to continue their work without the appearance of any premature political influence, so the committee will not be taking any official actions until after the water plan has been finalized. In the meantime, it is prudent for the Legislature to begin at least reviewing the parts of the plan that are publicly available.”

The committee's co-chairmen will be Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, and Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa. Committee members will be announced later.

Steele and Bingman said water policy will be a top priority in the Legislature next year.