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Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust chairman says changing water planning agency's board would be an “atrocity”

The plan would shift representation on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to a regional scheme from one based on population.
by William Crum Modified: May 11, 2013 at 3:51 am •  Published: May 12, 2013

The House and Senate have approved versions of the bill. It is assigned to a conference committee.

Oklahoma City depends on reservoirs in northwest and southeast Oklahoma for most of its water.

Of the current board's nine appointed members, two are from Tulsa and one from Oklahoma City. Others are from Altus, Bartlesville, Tahlequah, Chickasha, Arnett and Shawnee.

Current law requires that at least one board member be “well-versed” in use of water for recreation, industry, irrigation, urban needs, rural residential needs, agriculture and soil conservation. The proposed bill would add oil and gas production to the list.

Jim Couch, Oklahoma City's city manager, asked Water Resources Board Executive Director J.D. Strong about the measure Friday at a seminar on water law.

“Can we make it work? Yes we can,” Strong said, noting that residents of metropolitan areas are “not as fond” of shifting from a population base to a geographic base for board appointments.

White said Friday that he expected the courts would kill the idea, if the Legislature or governor don't kill it first.

He said he was reminded of when rural areas, despite having fewer residents, could elect enough members to control the Legislature. The Supreme Court changed that, he said.

“It's fundamentally unfair to geographically divide the state into sections and therefore weight your decisions so strongly in favor of land instead of people,” he said.

by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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