New law gives SE OK water district representation for the first time

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ATOKA CO, OK-After several years of lobbying in the Oklahoma House and Senate, a bill proposing to appoint each member of the water resources board by region is now law. That also means a part of Texoma will now have representation on the state's board for the first time.

Oklahoma is divided into nine water districts. Southeastern Oklahoma, District 9, covers Coal, Atoka and Bryan counties all the way to the Arkansas border. Local lawmakers said members of the water resources board are currently selected by congressional districts, which left District 9 without a representative. But the new law will change that.

Oklahoma Rep. Charles McCall said he's glad Senate Bill 965 was signed into law because for the first time, southeastern Oklahoma will have a representative in the state's water resources board.

"Overall this is a more fair approach and it certainly is a huge win for southern and southeastern Oklahoma," he said.

Under the new law, each member of the water resources board will be selected from the region they will represent instead of congressional districts. Which McCall said this new representation will help each district deals with its own different water issues.

"We can have a voice that will help craft and form policy that will hopefully help us prepare for the worst of situations in the future," he said.

And McGee Creek Superintendent, Ron Butler, agreed.

"Local representation is always good. They usually have the public interest at heart and I think that's a good thing on any level of government," he said.

McCall said Sen. Josh Brecheen and Rep. Dustin Roberts pushed to get this bill passed for several years. But because most of the board's members are from the Tulsa, Oklahoma City areas, the bill experienced road blocks.

"It very much is an urban versus rural issue. Right now, the urban areas of the state has greater representation in the board than they will under the new structure," he said.

McCall said Water District 9's representative will be nominated by that region's lawmakers and appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin. The Water Resources Board membership will make the transition from congressional districts to regional representation by July 2014.