Federal Money Flows to Oklahoma for Water Infrastructure Fixes


Christopher Caldwell / Flickr

Over the past week, Oklahoma has secured more than $37 million in federal funding for dam improvements across the state and for water system repairs in communities with aging pipes and treatment plants.

First, on July 18, the federal government announced a national dam assessment and repair program made possible by an “almost 21 fold” increase in funding for watershed rehabilitation under the 2014 Farm Bill. $26.4 million will go to Oklahoma.

From The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green:

Federal and state officials gathered Friday at one such structure, a dam on Perry Lake, to announce $262 million in funding under the 2014 Farm Bill to rehabilitate or assess the condition of hundreds of dams across the nation, including $26.4 million for Oklahoma projects. The idea is to make sure these dams, many built more than a half-century ago, are safe and in good condition for the future.

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State Water Regulator To Study Southwest Oklahoma Supply Shortages


arbyreed / Flickr

The recent wet weather has been more than welcome by residents of drought-parched southwest Oklahoma, but it hasn’t yet been enough to reverse the depletion of municipal water supplies.

Now the Oklahoma Water Resources Board is stepping in to help communities there to keep from running out of water. From The Associated Press:

The studies will focus on how water conservation, marginal quality water supplies and public water supply system regionalization might address the needs of basins on a local level and serve as examples for water users statewide.

The studies are part of the state’s ongoing water conservation initiative.

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“Poll: Oklahomans Support More Regulation of Wind Energy Development; Oppose Taxpayer Subsidies”

About 72 percent want the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to be the regulator; 68 percent support rules for maintenance to prevent accidents; 63 percent support local governments having more input on wind projects in their areas. The poll was commissioned by the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, which has opposed wind-energy projects.

Results from the latest SoonerPoll indicate that likely Oklahoma voters, who in other polling typically oppose more regulation, believe there is not enough regulation of wind energy development or oversight of wind tax subsidies in the state.

Read more at: soonerpoll.com

Why The OKC Coalition To Pump Water From Southeast Oklahoma Fell Apart

Mitchell Logan supervises a pump station near Macomb, the 100-mile Atoka Pipeline's last stop on its way to the OKC metro.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mitchell Logan supervises a pump station near Macomb, the 100-mile Atoka Pipeline's last stop on its way to the OKC metro.

Oklahoma City has been pumping water out of southeast Oklahoma through the Atoka pipeline for 50 years. But in the future, the aging pipeline won’t be able to carry enough water to meet the growing needs of Oklahoma City, let alone the rest of central Oklahoma. The plan is build another pipeline right next to the existing one.

Seventeen central Oklahoma communities formed a partnership with Oklahoma City to build the new 100-mile pipeline to get the water, but that water coalition has crumbled.

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Oklahoma Officials May Reconsider Keeping Oil Train Info Secret


Seebe / Flickr

In the wake of deadly derailments, fiery explosions and dangerous spills, the federal government in May ordered railroads to share with state authorities more information about some crude oil shipments.

Some of those trains traverse Oklahoma en route from oilfields in states like North Dakota to refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Citing “terrorism” concerns, Oklahoma’s Department of Environmental Quality has worked to keep those oil and train shipment details secret.

But as The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports, the agency might reverse course and release reports the Federal Railroad Administration says don’t “contain security-sensitive information”: Continue Reading

Four More State Parks at Risk as Budget Cuts and Low Revenue Loom

A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Christopher Caldwell / Flickr

A waterfall at Disney State Park on Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma.

Four state parks in northeastern Oklahoma could be sold off, leased out or closed due to state budget cuts and low park revenue.

Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation hasn’t made a final decision on three of the parks, but is considering selling or leasing Disney/Little Blue Area at Grand Lake, Snowdale Area at Grand Lake and Spring River Canoe Trails.

But the agency on July 8 decided to terminate the state’s lease at Walnut Creek, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, KJRH reports.

Selling or leasing the parks are just two of the options they are considering.

Blair said department leaders are exploring all possibilities.

On Tuesday, the tourism and recreation department said it would terminate its lease at Walnut Creek State Park in Osage County, thereby closing the park at the end of summer.

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“Oklahoma Residents Get Ready to Circulate Petition to Overturn Solar and Wind Bill”

Two Oklahomans are hoping to overturn a new law allowing electric utilities to set up a new customer class and higher base rates for customers who use solar and small wind turbines.

Stillwater resident Jonathan Pollnow and Oklahoma City resident Bob Waldrop want voters to reject Senate Bill 1456, signed into law in April by Gov. Mary Fallin. The law allows regulated electric utilities to set up a new customer class with higher base rates for users of rooftop solar panels and small wind turbines. If Pollnow and Waldrop can gather at least 51,739 signatures of registered voters, State Question 772 will appear on the November ballot. Backers of a referendum petition must get at least 5 percent of the total number of votes for governor in the last election cycle.

Read more at: newsok.com

Oklahoma Agrees to Keep Oil Train Shipments Secret

Flames and smoke are seen in an May 2014 oil-train derailment along Virginia's James River.

Waterkeeperalliance / Flickr

Flames and smoke are seen in an May 2014 oil-train derailment along Virginia's James River.

Surging oil production in states like North Dakota has outpaced pipeline capacity, and the energy industry has turned to railroads to transport oil from fields to refineries.

But several high-profile oil-train accidents — including Canada’s explosive Lac-Mégantic 2013 derailment that killed 47, and other accidents in Alberta, Alabama and Virginia — have raised questions about the safety of shipping crude oil on trains.

The federal government has ordered railroads to share more information about some crude oil shipments with state authorities, but Oklahoma officials won’t share that information with regular citizens, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

After an inquiry about the Bakken rail shipment reports, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the commission entered into confidentiality agreements with railroads under guidance from the federal Department of Transportation. Continue Reading

Oklahoma Drought Easing in the West, Intensifying in the East

The June 1st update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The July 1st update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

Despite the rain, many parts of the state are still struggling, state climatologist Gary McManus said. Conditions have improved in northern and western Oklahoma, where the drought has been the most severe for the past several months.

But the situation is beginning to worsen in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state, he said.

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High-Rate Disposal Wells Could Have Triggered Oklahoma Earthquakes, New Study Suggests


Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 'Chambers' disposal well in southeast Oklahoma City.

This year, Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests oil and gas production is fueling this increase in seismic activity.

A new paper published today in the journal Science, suggests a small number of wastewater wells used in drilling operations could be responsible for many of the quakes.

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