Rural water projects focus of ARPA funds

Water 101: Understanding Oklahoma's rural water systems | Morning Ag Clips

A joint Oklahoma legislative committee has recommended $12 million in funding for a handful of water improvement projects.

The recommendations of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding will be considered when the full legislature convenes in 2023. Funding is under the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA.

Among the projects approved is $12 million in funds matching tribal contributions to create new water infrastructure in rural Oklahoma communities in need of system upgrades. This will provide safe and reliable drinking water and wastewater systems for those living in rural areas.

Another project will allocate $50 million to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to create grant programs for the support and enhancement of water infrastructure across the state:

  • $25 to assist small communities/rural districts with infrastructure needs
  • $20 million to mid-large system construction
  • $5 million to support dam rehabilitation efforts

Oklahoma State Rep Judd Strom Rcopan Editorial Stock Photo - Stock Image | Shutterstock | Shutterstock Editorial

“This funding will not only benefit the people in my House district,” said Rep. Judd Strom, R-Copan, “but people throughout the state who live in rural areas that are struggling with aging infrastructure made worse by our current drought. Offering relief to those who need access to clean drinking water and waste disposal is essential to the quality of life of our rural residents.”

Strom represents a rural district in the state and has a water project in his district that could potentially qualify for the assistance being proposed.

The Waxhoma Lake Spillway Project at Barnsdall, is just one of many projects that could benefit from these funds, he said. After flood waters flowing over the Lake Waxhoma Dam cut into the spillway, subsequent floods threatened to destroy the levee. The city of Barnsdall and the surrounding area rely on Lake Waxhoma as their water supply. ARPA dollars have eased the concerns of hundreds of citizens in the city that, without these funds providing for repairs to the dam, would have very few viable options for clean drinking water, he continued. Repairs to the dam also will mitigate flood damage to hundreds of homes and businesses downstream that rely on the dam to slow flood waters into Dog Thresher and Bird Creeks.

The two water projects are among nine proposals to be considered when the Legislature reconvenes the Second Extraordinary Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature, which was called for the purpose of evaluating ARPA projects advanced by the joint committee.

The overall goal is to determine projects that will result in the greatest benefit to the state. The committee considered public input and took the recommendation of working groups to determine its final project list.

The nine new proposals are in addition to projects passed by the Legislature during special session held in June.

Source: OK House of Representatives