Bartlesville asks delegation for help with water crisis

Friday, April 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ Bartlesville officials sought help Thursday from the state's congressional delegation to get more water for Washington County.

U.S. Sen. Don Nickles hosted a meeting Thursday that was attended by staffers from the offices of Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Ernest Istook. Nickles has been trying to help the city, local business interests and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers solve water problems brought on by drought.

The city asked corps to allow it to draw 10 million gallons of water a day from Copan Lake for one to five years for $2.73 per acre foot. Without help from the delegation, that charge would be $53 per acre foot for the water.

``Senator Nickles is obviously very concerned about the situation in Bartlesville and has been monitoring it very closely,'' said Gayle Osterberg, Nickles' spokeswoman. ``Senator Nickles wants to make sure we look at all the options to ensure the water supply is safe, clean and uninterrupted.''

Dry conditions in Washington County and neighboring Osage County have led to the decline of water supplies of Bartlesville and surrounding communities. Hulah Lake is 75 percent depleted and Copan Lake 30 percent lower than usual.

The corps last Friday granted a 90-day emergency water supply, allowing Bartlesville to draw five million gallons daily from Copan Lake. The emergency supply will be in effect until July 24.

The city of Bartlesville's request for withdrawing 10 million gallons of water daily from Copan Lake has been forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers secretary in Washington.

Joan Sehested, Bartlesville's public information office, said there is some question as to whether the secretary will have the authority to lower the water price for Bartlesville.

If the secretary doesn't have the authority, the federal government would have to view Bartlesville as being in a state of emergency in order for the price to be lowered.

The state Legislature passed a resolution last week that would allow Gov. Frank Keating to declare a state emergency and involve Federal Emergency Management Agency officials if necessary, Sehested said.

Bartlesville supplies water to its residents, the city of Dewey and six rural districts, all of which are under mandatory rationing measures.