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Oklahoma water board bill should be sent down the drain

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Modified: May 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm •  Published: May 8, 2013

In reality, Oklahoma City leaders did a good job of water planning decades ago. That's why the city owned the water rights to Canton Lake. Marlatt apparently felt those legal obligations should be scuttled in favor of peripheral tourism benefits the lake created locally. Can it really be coincidence he now seeks to give his Senate district the same number of OWRB seats as Tulsa and Oklahoma City combined?

The OWRB oversees water use appropriation and permitting, water quality monitoring, supply planning and resource mapping. The group's decisions can have major statewide impact affecting all of Oklahoma's economy. All parts of Oklahoma — urban and rural — should have a voice in these discussions.

But instead of encouraging evenhanded, proportional balance, SB 965 would ensure that representation of some rural residents dramatically outweighs those of metro residents who comprise a far larger share of the state population and associated economic activity.

SB 965 is a throwback to the worst examples of rural-urban division in Oklahoma history, such as apportioning state House seats by county instead of population. By the 1950s, a University of Oklahoma study found that a single citizen in Cimarron County was equivalent in representation to 10.1 people in Oklahoma County. By the 1960s, 29 percent of Oklahoma citizens elected a majority of House members.

That system eventually was declared unconstitutional. SB 965 should never get the chance for a similar legal challenge. The bill is in conference committee, and there it should remain.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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