water

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The crippling five-year drought Oklahoma finally broke out of in 2015 is still fresh in the memory of the state’s water regulators, which is looking for ways the state can better withstand future dry spells. The Water Resources Board this week approved new rules to allow water to be stored underground, in aquifers.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

State Representative Leslie Osborn is the new chair of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee, an influential position that gives her bills extra weight. StateImpact talked to Osborn about legislation she’s pushing to increase mining fees, and to explore the sale of the Grand River Dam Authority.

GRDA IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Joe Brusky / Flickr

There are over 330,000 Native Americans in the state of Oklahoma, with 38 federally recognized tribes - the second largest Native American population in the country second to California.

As history has shown, those numbers have not always translated to political power in the state, where fights for oil and water rights have often been dominated by U.S. government interests, at the expense of tribes.

Six years ago, Don Cameron, the general manager of Terranova Ranch, southwest of Fresno, Calif., did something that seemed kind of crazy.

He went out to a nearby river, which was running high because of recent rains, and he opened an irrigation gate. Water rushed down a canal and flooded hundreds of acres of vineyards — even though it was wintertime. The vineyards were quiet. Nothing was growing.

"We started in February, and we flooded grapes continuously, for the most part, until May," Cameron says.

The Colorado River is like a giant bank account for seven different states. Now it's running short.

For decades, the river has fed growing cities from Denver to Los Angeles. A lot of the produce in supermarkets across the country was grown with Colorado River water. But with climate change, and severe drought, the river is reaching a crisis point, and communities at each end of it are reacting very differently.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The lakes and streams of southeast Oklahoma are vital to the area’s economy, and Broken Bow resident Charlette Hearne has made it her mission to stand in the way of attempts to move water out of her part of the state.

It’s Christmas season in North Pole, Okla., a blip on the map near Broken Bow. No one’s sure how this community along State Highway 3 got that name, but Charlette Hearne embraces the community at her North Pole convenience store, and holiday decorations abound. Hearne is from Colorado, but fell in love with Broken Bow Lake back in the 1970s.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

President Barack Obama on Friday signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in the wee hours Saturday morning. The $10 billion federal bill directs money to Oklahoma to help fix and address multiple water-related problems and issues across the state.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil prices are on the rebound, which should eventually generate revenue and help Oklahoma’s state budget situation. Still, another budget hole — that could be as large as $600 million — will likely have to be filled during the 2017 legislative session. One emerging idea that could put an extra billion dollars in state coffers: Selling the Grand River Dam Authority.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

J.D. Strong has been an influential leader in Oklahoma water issues for many years, and served as Executive Director of the state water regulator since 2010. Earlier this year he left the Water Resources Board to head the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

StateImpact talked to Strong in his new office to talk about the water challenges that remain and the issues facing wildlife conservation that are now his problem.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A decade after the government-owned Texoma Lodge and Resort was sold to a private company that never fulfilled its promise to develop a multi-million dollar resort on the former state park land, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Chickasaw Nation on Thursday announced the tribe’s plans to build a resort hotel and casino instead.

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