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.