On Monday, the Oklahoma Senate gave unanimous approval to a measure that will help provide financial assistance around the state during severe droughts.
House Bill 1923, authored by Rep. Dale DeWitt and Ron Justice, would create the Emergency Drought Relief Fund and an Emergency Drought Commission.
“Our state is going through one of the worst droughts in its history. Water plays a critical role in our daily lives, and we’ve seen how devastating not having it can be for our agricultural community, municipalities, counties, and private citizens,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “We tend to take for granted that water will always be available but we’ve learned that isn’t always the case. It’s imperative that we have a fund for emergency drought relief activities to protect our state from the devastating effects of a severe drought.”
The commission will recommend fund expenditures to the governor in the event of an emergency drought declaration. The commission is comprised of the executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
“Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Oklahoma economy, and so drought relief is not only critical for individual residents, but also to our livelihoods,” said DeWitt, R-Braman. “We’ve seen the effect of these devastating droughts on our communities these past years and I am proud of my colleagues for supporting this legislation to try to address it.”
Drought response activities could include pond cleanup and construction; water conservation methods in production agriculture; providing of water for livestock; rural fire suppression activities as directed by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture; red cedar eradication; soil conservation; emergency infrastructure conservation; and any other activities identified by the commission.
The bill will now be sent to the Governor for final consideration.