Oklahoma lawmaker planning to file legislation to stop new water standards

Thursday, May 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(OKLAHOMA CITY) - An Oklahoma legislator said he plans to file legislation to stop implementation of strict water quality standards on the state's scenic rivers.

On Tuesday, Gov. Frank Keating signed the new rules into law.

The rules restrict the level of phosphorous in Oklahoma's six designated scenic rivers to 0.037 parts per million. Arkansas is affected because the Illinois River flows from Arkansas to Oklahoma.

The average phosphorous level of the Illinois at Watts _ near where the river crosses into Oklahoma _ is 0.25 parts per million, or about seven times the new standard, according to the Water Resources Board.

The resolution from Rep. M.C. Leist would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to promulgate permanent water rules that are effective no earlier than July 15, 2003.

The Water Resources Board would be required to coordinate its efforts with Oklahoma environmental agencies, poultry farms and the state of Arkansas in setting a date on which the new standards would be enforced.

The resolution also would not allow the phosphorus standard to be the basis of litigation by the state of Oklahoma until economic impact studies of the new standard are sent to the governor and to the Legislature.

Leist said he was troubled by the lack of detail in the Water Resources Board's economic impact estimates regarding the new standard.

He said he wants to protect farms from the threat of litigation until the economic impact is known.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has suggested Arkansas might retaliate by setting standards for chloride in the Arkansas River, which flows through Oklahoma into Arkansas. ``We're not saying that that's what we'd do,'' he said Wednesday.

Oklahoma officials have denied Huckabee's charge that chloride from Oklahoma's petrochemical industry was polluting the river.