Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Steele, Bingman Announce Water Review

House Speaker Kris Steele and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman have ordered the formation of a joint legislative committee to review the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan and develop a long-range state water policy, they announced today.

The committee will begin working over the legislative interim and continue to work during next year’s legislative session.

While the committee’s immediate goal is to review the water plan, its ultimate purpose is to facilitate the development of long-range water policy for Oklahoma.

“Responsible allocation of water – our most precious natural resource – is among the greatest responsibilities we have today to the citizens of tomorrow,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “The state’s last 50-year water plan is about to expire. We need a new one, and we need it now. With the updated comprehensive water plan nearly complete, we must no longer defer action on this vital issue.”

The committee’s co-chairmen will be Rep. Phil Richardson, R-Minco, and Senator Brian Crain, R-Tulsa. Its membership will be bipartisan and geographically diverse. Committee members and additional details will be announced later this month.

“To develop a plan that works for all of Oklahoma, we must include all of Oklahoma,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The committee will take all interests into account, whether they are rural, urban, tribal, or anywhere in between.”
Drafts of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan have been publicly available since April. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board will approve a final version of the plan in October.

“The water board has labored for years to put together a fair, unbiased, evidence-based report on water in Oklahoma. We must allow them to continue their work without the appearance of any premature political influence, so the committee will not be taking any official actions until after the water plan has been finalized,” Steele said. “In the meantime, it is prudent for the Legislature to begin at least reviewing the parts of the plan that are publicly available. The plan is lengthy and complex, so we need to make sure we’re doing our due diligence in preparing ourselves to act upon it next year.”

Steele and Bingman said water policy will be a top priority in the Legislature next year and urged legislators to approach the issue with open minds.

“We simply cannot afford to waste time or play political games with our water policy. It is too important to the future of our state,” Steele said. “Water policy is a complex and sometimes emotional issue, but I am confident that the leadership and will power exists within this Legislature to meet this challenge,” Bingman said.

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