water

StateImpact Oklahoma
10:44 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Risk Associated With Dam Failures Grows in Oklahoma, But Safety Funding Lags

Families and a fisherman along the spillway beneath Broken Bow Dam in southeastern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has nearly 5,000 dams, more than most other states. When they were built, they were classified based on the risk their failure would pose to people and property.

But for many dams, it’s been decades since that risk was evaluated, and the potential hazard has changed because Oklahoma has changed. There are houses, roads and people where there weren’t before.

How did Oklahoma get so far behind in the dam reclassification game?

Mainly, the cost. Reclassifying dams into proper categories — low, significant or high-hazard, if loss of life could result in a dam’s failure — is expensive and time consuming. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board oversees the state’s dam safety program, and Director Yohanes Sugeng is trying to meet a pressing public safety need without a lot of money.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:16 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Confusion Fueling Oklahoma Outcry Over EPA’s ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule

Mason Bolay climbs into the cab of a tractor on his family's farm near Perry, Okla.
Logan Layden StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine calls it a power grab by an imperial president. U.S. Representative Frank Lucas says it would trigger an onslaught of additional red tape for famers and ranchers in Oklahoma. That kind of hyperbole is expected anytime President Barack Obama’s EPA does, well, anything. But the changes being proposed to the way bodies of water are classified are confusing.

The so-called ‘Waters of the United States’ designation is the federal government’s attempt to define which bodies of water qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The EPA is trying to tweak that definition. And it’s got farmers like Mason Bolay worried.

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Dealing with Water Shortage
9:32 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Drought Stricken Southwest Oklahoma Towns Look For More Water Underground

After four years of drought, municipal water storage in in Altus-Lugert lake has dropped to about 10 percent.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

Water supplies in southwest Oklahoma are in danger of drying up as four years of drought drag lake levels to record lows. Some communities are scrambling to supplement their current water sources, while others look for new sources — in Texas.

Estimates say Duncan’s main water source — Lake Waurika — could be too low to use by 2016.


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Scenic Rivers Series
10:13 am
Thu September 4, 2014

On the Mountain Fork River, Environmental Protection Equals Economic Development

Eddie Brister, owner of the Beaver's Bend Fly Shop on the southern section of the Mountain Fork River.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

This is the final part of StateImpact Oklahoma’s series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part three is available here.

Eddie Brister knows how the stream warms and cools, and where the current rushes and pools. He knows every pebble in the river, and he can spot a trout without even dipping his waders in the water.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:48 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Boom and Gloom: Tourism and Industry Collide Along Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers

Debbie Doss picks up garbage and loose clothing left behind by careless tourists along Lee Creek.
Logan Layden / State Impact Oklahoma

This is part three of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part two is available here.

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Series: Oklahoma's Scenic Rivers
11:34 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Other States Have Outsized Influence in Oklahoma’s Scenic River Protection Policy

Bob Deitrick of Owasso stands along the banks of the Upper Illinois River at the Round Hollow public access point north of Tahlequah, Okla. The headwaters of this river are in Arkansas.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

This is part two of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the environmental threats they face. Part one is available here.

Bob Deitrick checks the snaps on his bright orange life vest, crouches and checks all the gear one last time. The Owasso father’s son and his two friends are behind him, impatiently paddling in circles.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:46 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Flaming Waterways and Death Threats: The History of Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers

A group of Tulsa bartenders prepare for a day on the Illinois River at Diamondhead Resort near Tahlequah, Okla.
Logan Layden StateImpact Oklahoma

This is part one of StateImpact Oklahoma’s four-part series on the history of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers and the threats they face. 

The six eastern Oklahoma waterways classified as scenic rivers are each examples of the pristine beauty of that part of the state. They’re also tourist magnets. Even on a Monday morning, rowdy Tulsans pile into a bus at Diamondhead Resort and rumble toward the nearest access point into the Illinois River.

“If you have a good group of people and enough alcohol you can make anything fun,” one floater tells StateImpact.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:45 am
Thu August 7, 2014

State Parks Director Says State Parks “Not On The List” Of Core Services

Shaun Pelkey and his daughter Ireland Pelkey enjoy the afternoon at one of Walnut Creek State Park's beaches on Keystone Lake.
Logan Layden StateImpact Oklahoma

State tourism officials are considering closing or transferring four more state parks. The agency, like many, has had its budget cut over the past four years, but the decision to defund state parks is about more than money.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:31 am
Thu July 17, 2014

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

Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City has been pumping water out of southeast Oklahoma along 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,so the plan is to build another one right next to the existing one. Oklahoma City Utilities Director Marsha Slaughter:

“Yeah, have to, have to. It’s about how big the pipeline will be and whether a third one will be necessary at some point in the future,” Slaughter says. “Because we already have 117 miles of pipeline to southeast Oklahoma, it makes sense for us to continue to grow that supply.


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Water Quality and Ecology
8:16 am
Thu June 26, 2014

StateImpact: Why Norman Is The Only Oklahoma Town Where Citizens Control the Price of Water

Harold Heiple, chairman of Norman's charter review committee, addresses the city council in Norman June 17.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where utility rates are determined by a vote of the people — who aren’t always willing to charge themselves more for water. A proposal to change that came before the city council last week. StateImpact’s Logan Layden was there to hear the debate, and reports on the lessons other cities can glean from a more democratic, but less efficient way of setting water rates.

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