Changing the makeup of Oklahoma's water planning board would be an “atrocity” that would stifle economic development, Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust Chairman Pete White says.
Senate Bill 965 would reconstitute the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, shifting from membership based largely on population to membership based on water planning regions.
“It puts control of resources that belong to all of us into the hands of a few of us,” said White.
Water has been a key factor in producing the benefits that flow to the entire state from the “economic engine” generated by people who live and work in the cities, White said.
“If you curtail that water supply, then you're going to curtail economic development,” he said.
The governor appoints members of the Water Resources Board.
SB 965 would, over a six-year period, replace five members appointed from the five congressional districts and four members appointed at-large with nine members — one from each of the nine planning regions in Oklahoma's 1995 Comprehensive Water Plan.
Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian, McClain and Pottawatomie counties in central Oklahoma — with an estimated 2012 population of 1.2 million — would get one board member.
Beaver, Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle — with an estimated 29,474 residents — would get one board member.
Nine counties in southeastern Oklahoma with an estimated population of 184,583 also would get one board member.
Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, one of the measure's authors, did not return a call to his office Friday afternoon for comment.