water

StateImpact Oklahoma
11:14 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Why Fort Smith, Arkansas Is Planning Oklahoma’s Next Lake

The current Lee Creek Reservoir near Van Buren, Ark.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the natural beauty of Lee Creek — one of the state’s scenic rivers — is protected by state law. In Arkansas, Lee Creek is an important water source for fast-growing Fort Smith. Now, Fort Smith has a plan to turn Lee Creek into Oklahoma’s next lake, and reignite a dispute that was settled more than 20 years ago.

A DECADES-OLD FIGHT

If Fort Smith had its way in late 80s and early 90s, there’d already be a large reservoir on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. The city’s plan back then was for a lake much larger than the current Lee Creek Reservoir that would spill into hundreds of acres of Sequoyah County — in Oklahoma.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
5:08 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Lawton Turns to Weather Manipulation to Aid Drought-Stricken City Water Supplies

A Lockheed WC-130B used by U.S. government researchers Stormfury, a cloud seeding research project focused on reducing the strength of hurricanes.
NOAA

Five years of drought has strangled lakes and reservoirs in southwestern Oklahoma.

The city of Lawton is considering extraordinary means to help fill water supplies. City leaders hope a man with an airplane can manipulate the weather and bring more rain.

Gary Walker has a lot of titles under his belt: Navy pilot, cowboy, water conservation district manager and four-term Texas lawmaker. But he’s not a rainmaker.

“I can’t put two inches of water on farmer Jones’ field; I have to just work with the clouds,” he says.

If he has the right clouds to work with, Walker says he can make them bigger, more voluminous and more likely to produce rain. The weather-modification process is known as “cloud-seeding.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:53 am
Thu February 12, 2015

2015 Water Legislation Divides Oklahoma Politicians by Geography, Not Party

State Senator Eddie Fields' bill would create water planning districts that mirror the OWRB's membership districts.
Credit State of Oklahoma

After 5 years of drought, Oklahoma’s dwindling water resources have the attention of state lawmakers. There are competing bills to study moving water from southeast Oklahoma to the Altus area, and to encourage self-sufficient, regionally based plans to meet future water needs.

Balancing the interests of Oklahomans who have plenty of water with those who desperately need it is a political fight, but not between Republicans and Democrats

LOCAL CONCERNS

In southeast Oklahoma, it’s easy to find people who are passionate about water, like Chuck Hutchinson with Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy.

“The town of Clayton lost their economic base [when Sardis Lake was built],” Hutchinson says. “Now they’ve converted over the years to a tourism base because of the lake. Now if they take the water out, they’re going to lose twice.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:17 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Inhofe, Pruitt Attack EPA Over Water Rules

Credit courtesy msnbc.com

A rare joint Congressional hearing in Washington Wednesday took up the issue of ‘Waters of the United States,’ the EPA’s attempt to more clearly define which bodies of water qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act.

As StateImpact’s Logan Layden reports, Republicans at the hearing — including Oklahoma’s senior senator and state attorney general — are convinced the move is a vast overreach of the EPA’s power that will place everything from ditches to farm ponds under government control.

Administrator Gina McCarthy explained the EPA’s action as a benign clarification of existing rules meant to reduce confusion for farmers and ranchers, not further burden them. Senator Jim Inhofe wasn’t buying it.

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Environment
5:24 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Southern California's Water Supply Threatened By Next Major Quake

The California Aqueduct carries water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Southern California. It is one of four aqueducts in the region that glide across the San Andreas Fault.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 6:30 pm

Southern California gets the vast majority of its water from four aqueducts that flow from the north, but all of them cross the San Andreas Fault.

That means millions of people are just one major earthquake away from drying out for a year or more.

"It's a really concerning issue for the city of Los Angeles," says Craig Davis, an engineer with the LA Department of Water and Power, which oversees the LA aqueduct.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:15 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Drought-Stricken Oklahoma Communities Dealing With Prospect of Dead Lakes

Will Archer, manager of the Mountain Park Master Conservancy District, at the Tom Steed Reservoir dam.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Most of western Oklahoma is in its fifth year of drought with still no end in sight, despite a wetter-than-normal-end to 2014.  And many of the lakes communities rely on for drinking water are now on the verge of being too low to use. The situation is most dire in Altus, Duncan and Canton.

TOM STEED LAKE

The granite boulders and outcroppings that surround Lake Tom Steed, near Altus, are what make is so uniquely beautiful. They also tell a story of drought. The rocks are stained with the remnants of water that used to be here. For lake manager Will Archer, this is all very personal.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the creeks I always played on when I was a kid, they don’t run anymore,” Archer says. “Tom Steed is the life and the blood of southwest Oklahoma. Right now we’re providing 100 percent of the water to Altus. We’re providing over half of the water supply to Frederick. We’re providing, I think, about half the water supply to Snyder.”

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Environment
2:39 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Road Salt Contributes To Toxic Chemical Levels In Streams

Salt is unloaded at a maintenance yard in Scio Township, Mich., in September.
Carlos Osorio AP

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 10:05 am

This is the time of year when it's not uncommon to see big trucks barreling down highways and streets spreading road salt.

Steve Corsi, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says that translates into high levels of chloride concentrations for rivers like the Milwaukee in Wisconsin or 18 other streams near urban areas in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and several other states.

"At many of the streams, concentrations have now exceeded those that are harmful to aquatic life," he says.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:30 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Crowd Rallies for Clean Water as Norman Committee Considers New Drilling Rules

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

About 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the Norman City Hall Wednesday evening before the city council’s oversight committee met to discuss changes to the Norman’s oil and gas drilling regulations.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:39 am
Thu December 18, 2014

StateImpact’s Biggest Stories of 2014 and a Preview of Reporting for the Coming Year

Brothers and business partners Fred and Wayne Schmedt stand in their family's wheat field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 full-length radio features and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.

EPA Regulations

On of the first broadcast stories we filed this year was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, and how pollution from Texas coal plants dirties the skies above the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma. Volunteer firefighter and avid hiker Bill Cunningham took us to the top of Mount Scott to show us the pollution the rules are supposed to fight.

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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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