Oklahoma Water News

2nd Quarter, 2020

Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Oklahoma's new flood plan will examine flood risks, and potential flood mitigation projects beyond the local level, along an entire runoff area within a larger watershed. The plan will examine the need for additional flood risk information, such as flood maps, and ultimately feature a State inventory of specific flood control infrastructure projects, including cost-benefit analyses. Flood risk needs and assessments within watersheds could also be coordinated between communities in those watersheds.

The legislation was authored by Senator Dave Rader of Tulsa and sponsored by Representative Lonnie Sims of Jenks.

"This mirrors how FEMA and other federal agencies are beginning to approach disaster response--mitigating the damage before the event occurs," commented Senator Radar. "In order to do that properly, and protect taxpayer resources as we do it, we must have a well-thought out plan that is coordinated across communities and the state. I want to thank the state and federal agencies involved in this effort and Governor Stitt for signing this legislation into law."

The OWRB and other hazard mitigation and infrastructure agencies--including the Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association, Oklahoma Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Natural Resources Conservation Service--have already began initial collaboration for the plan.

According to OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham, the OWRB sees this flood plan as a significant piece that will strengthen the state's long-term water resiliency planning. Cunningham pointed out that past updates of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan focused largely on assessing drought resiliency and water and wastewater reclamation infrastructure needs.

"Today, especially as we see more frequent extreme flooding events," said Cunningham, "it is more important than ever to understand our state's critical flood control infrastructure needs and collaborate at all levels to address these needs."

In the fall of 2019, Representative Sims conducted a Legislative interim study to review all aspects of the federal, state, and local preparation and response to the Arkansas River basin floods during the spring of 2019. Among other issues, the interim study highlighted the need to establish a coordinated plan to begin addressing Oklahoma's hazard mitigation and infrastructure needs.

During the 2020 legislative session, Senator Rader and Representative Sims led on a number of flood-related bills before the ultimate enactment of SB 1269.

"Flooding remains one of the worst types of disaster in terms of the loss of property and life," said Representative Sims. "In 2019, much of Oklahoma, especially the Arkansas River basin, experienced record flooding. Oklahoma has already experienced flooding in some areas during 2020. After reviewing the lessons learned and discussing proactive solutions, I'm honored to be a part of legislation that helps us proactively plan and mitigate for future flood events instead of only reacting and responding."

The following key findings are highlighted in the report:

  • 69% of Oklahoma’s lake acres are classified as eutrophic and hypereutrophic, indicating high nutrient concentrations and productive plant growth, which can lead to excessive algae growth and depleted oxygen levels.

  • 60% of Oklahoma’s lake acres are classified as “most disturbed” for total nitrogen, signifying that reported values are out of balance.

  • 43% of Oklahoma’s lake acres are classified as “most disturbed” for total phosphorus.

  • 50% of Oklahoma’s lake acres were found to be classified as “moderately disturbed” to “most disturbed” for turbidity.

The study, which was funded through EPA 106 grants, provides the public, scientists, and decision makers with information for protecting valuable lake ecosystems. More information is available in the full report.

FA Loans—394 totaling $1,277,835,000

The OWRB's Financial Assistance Program (FAP), created by the State Legislature in 1979, provides loans for water and wastewater system improvements in Oklahoma. The tremendous popularity of the bond loan program is due, in part, to extended payoff periods of up to 30 years at very competitive interest rates.

CWSRF Loans—365 totaling $1,784,077,876

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) loan program was created in 1988 to provide a renewable financing source for communities to use for their wastewater infrastructure needs. The CWSRF program is Oklahoma's largest self-supporting wastewater financing effort, providing low-interest loans to communities in need.

DWSRF Loans—226 totaling $1,501,459,513

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) loan program is an initiative of the OWRB and ODEQ to assist municipalities and rural water districts in the construction and improvement of drinking water systems. These projects are often mandated for communities to obtain compliance with increasingly stringent federal standards related to the treatment of drinking water.

REAP Grants—708 totaling $63,101,582

The Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) Program was created by the State Legislature in 1996. REAP grants, used for water/wastewater system improvements, primarily target rural communities with populations of 7,000 or less, but priority is afforded to those with fewer than 1,750 inhabitants.

Drought Response Program Grants—6 totaling $418,848

Through the OWRB's Drought Response Program, funding is available for communities in most dire need during state drought emergencies declared by the Governor. A maximum of $300,000 is diverted from existing OWRB Emergency Grant proceeds to fund the Program.

Emergency Grants—592 totaling $35,263,155

Emergency grants, limited to $100,000, are awarded to correct situations constituting a threat to life, health, or property and are an indispensable component of the agency's financial assistance strategy.

Water for 2060 Grants—4 totaling $1,500,000

Through the Water for 2060 Grant Program, funding was available in 2015 for municipalities, counties, water/sewer districts and other public entities for projects that highlight the responsible use of water.

Emergency Drought Relief Grants—4 totaling $1,125,000

Through the Emergency Drought Relief Grant Program, funding was provided in 2013 by the Legislature via the Emergency Drought Relief Commission to address severe drought issues in specific Oklahoma counties.

FA Loans & Grants Map

Total Loans/Grants Approved: 2,299 totaling $4,664,780,974
Estimated Savings: $1,551,547,169

Applicants eligible for water/wastewater project financial assistance vary according to the specific program's purpose and requirements, but include towns and other municipalities with proper legal authority, various districts established under Title 82 of Oklahoma Statutes (rural water, master/water conservancy, rural sewage, and irrigation districts), counties, public works authorities, and/or school districts. Applications for agency financial assistance programs are evaluated individually by agency staff. Those meeting specific program requirements are recommended by staff for approval at monthly meetings of the nine-member Water Board. For more information, call (405) 530-8800 or go to www.owrb.ok.gov/financing.