Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 10, 2012

Drought assistance now available

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County residents experienced a brief respite from drought conditions, as the first measurable rainfall swept through the area late Wednesday and early Thursday.

But the area remains under a severe drought warning. Some rural water users who depend on wells may find supplies running low, and cattle ranchers are looking for ways to irrigate their livestock as pond levels ebb ever lower.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board on Thursday announced grant funding has been made available for drought assistance. OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong said his agency is receiving dozens of inquiries daily, either reporting drought-related water problems or requesting some type of technical or financial assistance.

“When it gets right down to it, no matter how dry our streamflow gauges and drought indices say it is, it’s the people on the ground – the citizens of Oklahoma and our water user community – who experience the true impact of drought,” said Strong in a press release.

The OWRB administers water rights in Oklahoma, monitors the quantity and quality of surface and groundwater, and provides financial assistance to address water infrastructure needs.

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Agriculture Educator Roger Williams said area cattle ranchers are having a hard time providing irrigation for livestock.

“It’s not at the critical point yet, but watering livestock is becoming a problem,” said Williams. “[Ranchers] are looking real hard at how to haul water to them. I haven’t heard many well complaints, but the pond levels are really getting lower, especially with all the wind we’ve had.”

Williams pointed rainfall in the county has been below average for 18 of the past 25 months.

“The only time we had plenty of rainfall was April 2011, and most of that didn’t going to the ground, it just caused problems,” said Williams. “We just haven’t had the solid rains to make the ground soggy.”

Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Administrator Ed Fite is a member of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. He explained about the grant funding available through the agency.

“We have a funding process at OWRB, that when a drought has been declared through the governor’s  proclamation, the agency has a rule allowing up to $300,00 in grant funding to provide drought-related aid for rural water customers and municipalities,” said Fite. “For instance, during the last declared drought, Chimney Rock, in Osage County, was out of water. The OWRB  actually tapped that money and gave funds to water district to put a float pump in to Chimney Rock Lake.”

Fite said he didn’t know if the OWRB could provide individual relief to cattlemen or farmers, but that it does provide emergency aid grants to rural water districts and municipalities having trouble providing safe, potable water.

“That said, encourage folks to contact Brian Vance at the OWRB, to see what sort of individual assistance might be available,” said Fite. “They should be very specific about the problem they’re having, and see if the OWRB can’t address that.”

Strong said the OWRB receives frequent requests for help from water users experiencing reduced yields from wells.

“Those  individuals who don’t have access to a municipal or rural water system are particularly vulnerable to drought and dry periods,” he said. “We can investigate the problem and provide information to the landowner on obtaining the services of a license well driller who can deepen their well or, if needed, construct an entirely new well. Or course, we encourage individuals to tie on to public water supply systems wherever possible.”

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What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
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