Drought Worsens Water Infrastructure Problems
By Sara Jerome@sarmje
The drought in Oklahoma is not just hurting the water supply—it is hurting water infrastructure.Many of the water lines in Chickasha, OK, "were laid as much as 80 years ago, making them susceptible to leaks and breaks. As severe drought has taken hold in Grady County, dry, shifting soil has caused the city’s aging water lines to leak and break," The Oklahoman reported, citing Chickasha City Manager Stewart Fairburn.
“Our guys are running around fixing leaks,” Fairburn said, per the report.In turn, water infrastructure problems take a toll on the water supply."The water line breaks mean lost water at a time when the city is already in drought. Nearly all of Grady County, including Chickasha, is experiencing severe drought conditions, according to [the U.S. Drought Monitor]," the report said.
Over a 90 day period, Chickasha received just 5.3 inches of rain, according to the report. It is one of the driest areas of Oklahoma.
For water utilities, the link between drought and water infrastructure is clear-cut, according to Fitch Ratings.
"California utilities that have made proactive, long-term investments in water infrastructure are better equipped to deal with water supply pressures during drought," a recent release from Fitch said.Kathy Masterson, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, explained the correlation.
"When cities make long-term investments in water infrastructure, not every drought turns into a fire drill for conservation," she said. "The fact is that droughts are cyclical and careful planning can help offset or delay some of the resulting stresses like water restrictions.
"Oklahoma has reported $4.1 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next two decades, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

EPA Funding Improves Drinking Water Quality and Infrastructure in Oklahoma

Release Date: 11/13/2014
Contact Information: Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard, R6Press@epa.gov or 214 665-2200

DALLAS – (Nov. 13, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $14,226,000 to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) to fund drinking water systems throughout the state. The amount is awarded through EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which gives states low-interest, flexible loans for drinking-water projects.

ODEQ will use the funds to provide loan assistance to eligible public water systems for infrastructure improvements, technical assistance for small systems, program management, and administrative assistance. Earlier this year, the state of Oklahoma received an additional $11.33 million from EPA for clean-water projects.

Since 1996, the DWSRF has helped provide the nation’s community water systems with funding to install and improve drinking-water infrastructure and treatment facilities. The program emphasizes providing funds to small and disadvantaged communities to ensure they can provide safe drinking water to their customers.

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. One in three Americans get their drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal and rain-dependent streams. EPA is taking public comment on a rule to help protect our nation’s waters. For more information please visit:

For more information about EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program:

Inhofe Statement on Congressional Passage of Water Resource Reform and Development Act

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and member of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) Conference Committee, today praised the Senate's passage of the WRRDA Conference Report.          

“Today Congress put aside partisan differences and fulfilled their constitutional responsibility to maintain and modernize our nation's infrastructure," said Inhofe. "With this bill, the Senate and House have addressed the critical safety requirements and regulatory reforms that will benefit our nation's economy and Oklahoma for decades into the future. The bill will help to maintain Oklahoma's inland waterways as viable means of transportation and ensure the water requirements for our state's rural communities are met. I applaud my colleagues for working together on the final bill to reduce red tape and streamline the environmental review process that is plaguing our nation's infrastructure development and inhibiting economic output. While there is still work left to be done, passage of this legislation is the right step forward."

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act authorizes the construction of major navigation and flood risk management projects in a deficit neutral manner with no new direct spending. The bill provides the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps of Engineers) the flexibility to work with non-federal sponsors such as states and local communities on planning assistance, feasibility studies, and project construction. Included are provisions that require the Corps to meet deadlines and more expediently resolve all environmental reviews, including the Endangered Species Act. 

WRRDA passed the House of Representatives on May 20 by a vote of 412-4, and then passed the U.S. Senate today by a vote of 91-7. Inhofe worked to ensure the following provisions were included in the final Conference Report:

For further detail on WRRDA's impact on Oklahoma, see Senator Inhofe's full press release.

Markwayne Mullin Water Resource Reform

Posted: Saturday, June 7, 2014 12:00 am

Port of Catoosa, inland waterway touted as beneficiaries of federal water resources act By RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer TulsaWorld.com

CLAREMORE — U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin on Friday touted the impact of a federal authorization bill designed to ensure the viability of state waterways such as the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.

“We have a jewel here in Catoosa,” Mullin, an Oklahoma Republican, said at a news conference at the port. “It was an honor of mine to be able to highlight it to the rest of the world and definitely our country. … It’s amazing how many people in Oklahoma aren’t aware of what we have right here in our backyard.”

Mullin is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is a co-sponsor of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which is expected to be signed into law soon by President Barack Obama.

The legislation would authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct water projects to mitigate storm and hurricane damage, restore ecosystems and improve flood management, and allow the Corps to assist state and local governments with levee safety programs and to assist Indian tribes with water resources projects.

Moreover, the act would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to provide loans or loan guarantees to state and local governments and certain nongovernmental entities to complete water infrastructure projects.

The Port of Catoosa and the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System impact 8,000 jobs and represent $5 billion in private industry investments from Catoosa through Muskogee, Mullin said. Any shutdown of the waterway would cost the state an estimated $2 million per day, the congressman said.

“Throughout this process, our office and the Port of Catoosa have been very involved in making sure that Oklahoma isn’t overlooked, that Oklahoma just isn’t a fly-over state,” he said.

He added that Congress understands how important the port is “to our ag (agriculture) community, how important it is to our oil and gas industry, how important it is to our economy in general.”

Once signed, the act would clear the way for several projects at the port, including about $10 million for improved barge parking and a dock overhaul that would run from $10 million to $12 million, Port Director Bob Portiss said.

The port can handle about 100 barges at a time, he said.

“There have been a couple of times where we’ve been up to about 100 and a quarter,” Portiss said. “When you drive by the channel, you could literally walk across the channel on barges. I don’t like seeing that. It looks good, but the fact remains it’s a very inefficient way to operate.

“We need that (additional parking). We need that critically.”

The four- to five-year parking project is expected to start later this year and involve opening an area for about 60 barges on an unused, curved portion of the Verdigris River, Portiss said.

“We’re going to take that curve and turn it into a large parking lot,” he said. “It means digging it out and making it a little bit wider.”

Dock enhancements, which are underway and could be completed by late 2015, will include new concrete along worn-out aprons, Portiss said.

“We need to make it a modern, efficient dock that will accommodate the needs of our shippers for the next 40 to 50 years,” he said.

Portiss reiterated Friday that barge transportation is the cleanest, safest and most economical transportation in the world.

“We like to talk about the fact that we can move three bushels of grain to the Gulf (of Mexico) cheaper than you can buy a first-class postage stamp,” he said. “The towboat that pushes up to 12 barges out of here is the equivalent of about 720 trucks. A crew of 10 is on that boat. The economics of barge transportation are incredible.”

Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395


Three Tulsa Utility Rate Increases Proposed
By Matt Trotter

Tulsans may see their city utility bills go up in October.There are three proposed increases: 7 percent for water, 9.75 percent for sewer and between 6 and 9 percent for storm water. Water and sewer rates have increased each of the last six years while storm water rates have not.Streets and Storm Water Director Roy Teeters said the rate increases are needed to deal with a big problem."All the utilities are all in the same situation," Teeters said. "It's aging infrastructure and increased cost to maintain that aging infrastructure."The average Tulsa family would see a $5 increase to its monthly water and sewer costs if the increases are approved.

Additionally, the Water and Sewer Department proposed rate increases each year for the next five years. Water rates would go up seven percent this year and each year through 2018. Sewer rates would go up 9.75 percent this year and 9 percent each year thereafter.

Department Director Clayton Edwards said there are several reasons for the rate increases, but debt is a big one."If we don't pass these rate increases, then we are at risk of defaulting on some of our bonds and loans, so it's critical that we pass these rate increases," Edwards said. Tulsa’s sewer debt ratio is 39 percent. A national cutoff for the bottom 25 percent of cities is 33 percent.