With the Water Resources Development Act now in the hands of President George Bush, Oklahoma leaders are waiting to see of the President is going to buck the bi-partisan support and veto the bill.
If Bush follows through with his threatened veto, Oklahomans will feel the hit - including resident in the Tar Creek Superfund site who have not yet been included in a federally funded, state-led buyout.
An estimated $30 million is tucked into the WRDA bill. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe insisted on the authorization language that, upon appropriation of the funding, is expected to complete the buyout project.
Members of the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust has just recently exhausted funding available to it for the purchase of property.
Funds remaining in the trust's accounts are obligated for demolition use.
The process of selecting a demolition contractor for homes already purchased will be picked up at the next meeting of the trust.
The WRDA bill, however, holds more in store for Oklahoma - pending a successful exit from the President's desk.
“This bill is one of the most comprehensive pieces of water legislation ever passed,” said Duane Smith, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB). “Specifically for Oklahoma, it provides funds for the statewide Comprehensive Water Plan as well as several vital water projects that have been on hold for some time. Senator Inhofe's tremendous leadership has been instrumental in obtaining WRDA consideration for Oklahoma projects. In fact, our entire Congressional delegation has worked to ensure that Oklahoma's water resource needs are brought to the forefront.”
The last WRDA legislation was passed in 2000. Senator Inhofe has been particularly keen on securing federal funds required for the study of water use and identification of future water needs in Oklahoma. The bill specifically targets water planning in Oklahoma by providing $6.5 million to update the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), administered by the OWRB. Last summer, the Oklahoma State Legislature appropriated funds through the Gross Production Tax for the Water Plan update, a five-year study that is now well under way. While this funding goes a long way toward the overall planning effort, according to Smith, federal matching dollars will be particular valuable in underwriting technical studies and accessing related engineering resources available through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The major focus of this new Water Plan is to establish long-term plans for Oklahoma's water systems, provide the necessary infrastructure and water supply for future growth, and through various studies, discover potential solutions to the state's most imminent water problems and issues,” Smith said. “This unprecedented analysis of Oklahoma's water resources is an enormous undertaking and will require federal assistance. The persistence and dedication of our Congressional delegation are making this all possible.”
The WRDA bill also specifically includes funding for water and wastewater projects across the state that are within the scope of the OCWP for the communities of Ada, Norman, Bethany, Woodward, Durant, Ardmore, Midwest City, Guymon, Bartlesville, Mustang, and several others, as well as $5 million for water-related infrastructure improvement projects at the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, near Altus.
Some of the other provisions include the creation of a lake advisory committee at Lake Eufaula, removing restrictions on local development plans at Lake Texoma, and encouraging recreational development on all of Oklahoma's Corps lakes through public-private partnerships.