Tahlequah Daily Press

Letters to editor

April 28, 2010

OCC and water quality

TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press:

Recently in the Daily Press, former Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commissioner Ed Brocksmith stated the Oklahoma Conservation Commission was “not a water quality agency.”

This statement is false.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission is a water quality agency, serving as Oklahoma’s lead technical agency on non-point source pollution.

It’s the Conservation Commission that’s in charge of the ongoing clean water work in the Illinois River Watershed, work the OSRC and the Conservation Commission are both partnering on.

Currently the Conservation Commission and local conservation districts have pending over 1,600 acres of riparian buffer contracts in the Illinois River Watershed under the Conservation Reserved Enhanced Program.

These buffers will provide a filter to help control erosion and reduce nutrients from run-off.

In addition to CREP, Conservation has been working for years in the Watershed through the Clean Water Act 319 program to address issues ranging from leaking septic tanks, to application rates of chicken litter, to fencing livestock out of streams.

To date, Conservation has funded at least $27.5 million of water quality programs in the watershed. This has resulted in an overall reduction of over 70 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the Peacheater Creek Watershed, a 16,000-acre sub-watershed of the Illinois River.

Work is ongoing to expand this success throughout the area.

Because of the work of Conservation, EPA recently removed four Oklahoma streams from the Federal Impaired Streams list and kept another 170 streams targeted by EPA off of this list. In fact, recent EPA numbers now show Oklahoma in the top five states in the reduction of non-point source pollution. Over 10 percent of all nitrogen and over 16 percent of the phosphorous reduction levels in water nationwide happened in Oklahoma – a fact lost on Brocksmith.

Not only is the Conservation Commission a water quality agency, it’s one of the most successful.

Clay Pope, executive director

Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts

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