Waters Resources board spokesman defends water plan process

 As regional meetings and hearings studying the draft Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan wrap up this week, a group of four Democrats in the state Legislature criticized the process that has been used to develop the plan.

The criticisms were detailed in a CapitolBeatOK  story yesterday. The group of legislators have asked Attorney General Scott Pruitt to provide a formal opinion on their critique of the water plan process.

Asked for a response, Brian R. Vance, director of information at Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), in an email exchange with CapitolBeatOK, said:

“The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) is preparing to issue a series of news releases highlighting the key components of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan (OCWP), including its extensive discussion and recommendations regarding non-consumptive uses of water, such as recreation and fishing, as well as planning tools we have developed for use at the local, watershed and regional level.

“An integral partner in the development of the OCWP has been the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor, CDM, which has extensive experience and an impressive track record in water and infrastructure planning.

“It is no surprise that they were contracted independently to analyze future water supply options by a central Oklahoma consortium that included not just Oklahoma City, but also Mustang, Yukon, Chickasha, Piedmont, Norman, Midwest City, Seminole, Moore, Del City, Shawnee and Goldsby.

“It’s important to note that the draft Water Plan does not recommend the transfer of Sardis Lake water to Oklahoma City.

“Throughout the past five years, the OCWP process has been conducted in an unprecedented open and accessible manner.”

“The impressive volume of data, information, and policy recommendations contained in the draft OCWP are available on our website, and additional information is available upon request as we work toward conclusion of the plan that seeks to fairly and equitably maximize our water resources for the benefit of all Oklahomans.”

In a May 19 letter, Democratic state Representatives Brian Renegar of Blanco and Ed Cannaday of Porum joined state Sens. Jerry Ellis of Valliant and Richard Lerblance of Hartshorne in requesting the legal opinion from Pruitt.

The quartet contended, in a statement this week, “that the Comprehensive Water Plan’s Enabling Act has not been honored. The enabling act specifically states what is to be covered by the statute.”

The legislators, quoting the enabling legislation, contend the study’s goal “shall be to maximize and not minimize the alternatives available to all citizens, municipalities and other water user entities in acquiring water for beneficial use.”

Concerning the firm involved in the hearings process, the four legislators asserted in their letter to Pruitt, “CDM Engineering did not report or disclose to the Comprehensive Water Plan’s public participants or to the general public that, simultaneously, while under water plan contract(s) to OWRB …, CDM worked for the Oklahoma City Water Trust Authority on an $800,000+ engineering contact to bring Sardis Lake water to the Oklahoma City area.”

The attorney general’s office told CapitolBeatOK Pruitt and his legal staff are now studying the issues raised in the legislative letter.

This afternoon and evening (Thursday, May 26), the Oklahoma City hearing for the state’s Central region is being held on the campus of Oklahoma State University-OKC. The session is the last of 13 hearings held over the past few weeks in every section of the state.