The 2012 legislative session is going to focus on water issues. This is a very serious topic, especially for rural Oklahomans. Some preliminary investigation on the issues reveal frightening government oversight of the most important resource for survival. The OWRB (Oklahoma Water Resources Board) is one of the many boards, authorities and commissions set up by our legislators to shield issues from public scrutiny and put power in the hands of an unelected few.
There are really three distinct issues that may or may not have common roots that I think are very important to Oklahomans.
First, Texas wants access to Oklahoma water. This causes a conflict between state and indian governments over water rights. The Indians have rights by treaty to Oklahoma water, however, some have said that the treaty became void with statehood. West Texas is by definition a desert and has been compensating for over a century to irrigate with water drawn from wells. They have known for decades that the aquifers were drying up but continued to increase production with limited conservation measures. Now that the wells are tapping out, Texas is looking North to find more water. They are willing to pay for water and for the project to pipe water across the state, which would bring some temporary jobs. Once we agree to this we would be obligated to continue selling water to Texas.
Second, FEMA is remapping flood zones. Many instances of absurd flood zone designations exist, but people have little or no recourse to oppose FEMA. Also it is possible that FEMA is incorrectly increasing flood zone territories simply to add more flood insurance payers to to the roles to replenish their coffers after Katrina. The OWRB currently acts as an agent of FEMA for flood zone remapping. While flood zones are real, FEMA does not seem to consistently apply standards. Because a flood zone designation is detrimental to property values, property rights, mortgage availability and insurance rates, we need to get a handle on what they are up to and why.
Third, rural Oklahoma is dependent upon the right to use our own water. There are lots of instances in other states where the government has declared that water on your property is not yours. For example, in Colorado, you are not even allowed to collect the water that falls on your roof to water your garden. There are instances where the government forces you to have meters on your well or pay a fee for using a well. Do you consider a pond a dam? The government does, and as such, the water in the pond is public property. Do you have running water on your property – even 6 inches wide, even occasionally? The government considers this a watershed and demands control of several hundred feet on each side!
Contact Margaret Snow, firstname.lastname@example.org or Keith Shankle, email@example.com for more information.