Tahlequah Daily Press

Z_CNHI News Service

December 12, 2013

ERDA aims to unify NW Oklahoma on water policy

ENID, Okla. — Local development officials soon will be courting communities and industry stakeholders in the region to join a committee with the goal of steering water policy.

Enid Regional Development Alliance will put $20,000 toward an organizing effort to pull in northwest Oklahoma communities, along with agricultural and energy businesses, to create the Northwest Oklahoma Water Supply Action Plan.

ERDA Executive Director Brent Kisling said Thursday when it comes to water, every decision matters.

“(We) as a community could just go out and start buying land, laying pipe, but in my conversations with the city, it’s become very obvious that anything Enid does, doesn’t happen in a void,” he said. “It effects everybody else in this watershed.”

Those with a stake in the region’s water supply include smaller cities and towns, farmers who rely on irrigation and the energy industry, among others.

Josh McClintock will help get the group organized as it reviews existing water analyses and explores alternatives before setting a final plan of action.

“All the regulatory structure is going to regional. All the funding structure is going to the regional systems,” McClintock said. “If this area of Oklahoma is going to develop, it’s going to be a team effort. Water is critical to all that.”

McClintock has experience in developing water policy for the state of Oklahoma and his clients.

“We want to tell the story of water and development in the region over the course of the last 50 or 60 years, or longer,” he said.

There already is an Oklahoma water plan on the books. There also are local water studies that have been conducted recently, including one commissioned by the city of Enid.

The idea for the action plan is to review all of that information and find out what’s best for this region as a whole. It also may help define how the city of Enid proceeds with its long-term water strategy.

“There may be some things that are identified that would require laws to be changed or agency rules to be changed. It’ll vary based on which direction everyone decides to go,” McClintock said.

Kisling said the plan, once completed, will prove valuable. He mentioned he once worked all night with a city engineer trying to figure out if the city could sustain the Northstar Agri Industries canola plant, because the company had called to ask.

“Something like this is a document I can hand to the next corporation as our plan on moving forward,” Kisling said.

The committee will have no authority other than making recommendations, he added.

Although ERDA is fronting the money to kickstart the action plan, others who come on later will be expected to chip in. Overall, the project could cost about $150,000 through the summer of 2014.

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