Spring rains have started to fill rivers and reservoirs, and helped bring relief to parts of drought-stricken Oklahoma.
But what falls from the sky is only part of the equation. In Oklahoma, droughts are meteorological — and agricultural. And researchers at Oklahoma State University say soil data is key to understanding drought and its impact on farming and the state’s emerging bioenergy industry, the Journal Record’s D. Ray Tuttle reports:
Much of the state has suffered under extreme drought conditions for two years. Still, despite the wet March that much of Oklahoma experienced, soil moisture levels were lower than they were in March 2011 or March 2012, Tyson Ochsner, an assistant professor of applied soil physics in the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, tells the paper.
The April 23 update from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows relief in eastern Oklahoma counties, and swaths of the state where "extreme" and "exceptional" drought conditions linger.
Oklahoma’s drought has lessened a bit, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show.
Drought conditions remain in 72 percent of the state, an improvement from the 82 percent recorded in mid-April, the latest data show. Much of the drought improvement is concentrated in eastern Oklahoma counties.
Areas of “extreme” and “exceptional” drought persist in the southwestern parts of the state, the panhandle, and in an arc that spans from the western border to the north central border, data show. Continue Reading →
Another activist from The Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance briefly stopped work on the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma on Thursday. Fitzgerald Scott held the project up for about an hour and a half, before firefighters removed him.
Thursday’s protest marks the sixth time the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance has taken action in an attempt to block construction of the 485-mile pipeline being built between the oil storage hub at Cushing and refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Norman City Council on Tuesday approved a new economic incentive plan meant to attract businesses and jobs in an 8-1 vote.
It creates a seven member volunteer board that will make recommendations to the city’s economic development trust authority.
The authority can then offer “something as simple as streamlining the permit process all the way to helping businesses attain favorable loan structuring,” Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Walker told The Oklahoman’sJane Glenn Cannon:
Companies wanting to take advantage of the incentives would have to submit proposals, and each proposal would be evaluated on its individual merits, she said.
A performance agreement would be required, with specific performance goals outlined. Penalties would be written into the agreement if performance goals are not met.
The water shortage has become one of the most pressing issues in the Texas Legislature this year. Much of the talk is about finding money to implement the state’s water plan. The plan calls for $53 billion in infrastructure upgrades — including the construction of 20 new reservoirs — that would help Texas meet about one-quarter of its water needs over the next half-century, according to state projections. Previous plans have languished without enough money to implement them.
Even as it battles Oklahoma for water, Texas is fighting New Mexico over its share of water from the Rio Grande. In a case that may also reach the Supreme Court, the state has accused New Mexico of over-pumping groundwater that feeds the Rio Grande, reducing flows into Texas.
The OK-TX water dispute centers on the Kiamichi River in near Hugo in southeastern Oklahoma.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Tarrant v. Herrmann, an Oklahoma-Texas water fight with national implications.
The justices grappled with the 30-year-old Red River Compact, and whether a region of Texas can reach across state lines to access water in southeastern Oklahoma.
The two states have different interpretations of some language in the agreement. The compact gives Oklahoma and Texas “equal rights” to some of the water in southeastern Oklahoma. But “equal rights” means different things to each state.
Attorneys representing Oklahoma and Texas argued Tarrant v. Herrmann at the U.S. Supreme Court. The case concerns water in the Red River, and experts say it’s a regional water fight that could impact national water-sharing agreements.
The Supreme Court has released a transcript of today’s arguments. The above transcript is preliminary. The court’s disclaimer: “Same-day transcripts are considered official but subject to final review.”
It’s already nearly impossible to raise taxes in Oklahoma. Now, the legislature is poised to ban raising fees for drivers’ licenses, state parks and other state services, too.
A bill placing a moratorium on fee increases through 2016 has passed both houses of the state legislature. If it becomes law, Oklahoma’s options for raising new revenues to pay for government services will be severely diminished.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, says the moratorium is necessary because Oklahoma has raised fees by more than $100 million since 2007. During the recession, it was the easiest way Oklahoma had to raise revenues to fill budget gaps. Increasing taxes in Oklahoma requires a three-fourths supermajority in both houses of the legislature, or a vote of the people.
An Iowa man was arrested Monday after he chained himself to a piece of heavy equipment during a Keystone XL Pipeline protest in Oklahoma. The protests landed on Earth Day and the final day for public comment on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which traverses Oklahoma.
Alec Johnson, 61, was one of four people arrested during Monday’s protest in Atoka County, organizers said. Johnson took action to defend the Red River, according to the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. Organizers described Johnson as a climate justice organizer from Ames, Iowa. It is the fifth protest launched by the environmental group in an attempt to block the Keystone XL pipeline.