Legislators tour rural Oklahoma conservation infrastructure
Flood control needs, water quality work highlighted on tour
In an effort to get a "first-hand look" at the conservation infrastructure needs of rural Oklahoma, State Representative Ken Miller, R-Edmond, chairman of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee toured flood control dams, riparian areas, no-till fields and other conservation improvements in Kingfisher, Blaine and Canadian counties. The tour was conducted on the invitation of Representative Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, a former senior advisor to the chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
"I am so glad that Rep. Miller was able to come out and see some of the needs of conservation in rural Oklahoma," Rep. Sanders said. "Ken has been a great supporter of natural resource conservation work in the past, but it always helps to see this work first hand to really get a grasp of what we are doing to help protect the environment."
Rep. Sanders said that he first came up with the idea of having the chairman of the Appropriations Committee come with him on a tour of conservation improvements shortly after the start of the 2009 legislative session.
"I have a unique perspective after serving in Washington D.C.," Sanders said. "I saw how folks who have little day-to-day experience with rural America sometimes miss the importance of the work farmers, ranchers and other landowners do to protect our natural resources. When I had a chance to visit with Chairman Miller about conservation, I took the opportunity of inviting him to come out to my part of the world and see some of these needs first hand. Ken jumped at the chance to get out and see the actual work on the ground."
A resident of Edmond and a suburban representative, Representative Miller said that it was extremely helpful to see up close the work done by the funds he has helped appropriate to conservation in Oklahoma.
"I have always supported natural resource work and the effort of those who protect our soil, water, air and wildlife habitats through voluntary means. That said, we don't have many terraces, waterways or riparian buffer strips in the city limits of Edmond," Rep. Miller said. "It's easy to hear things like 'our state has more flood control structures built under the USDA watershed program than any other state in the union,' or 'by implementing best management practices like no-till and riparian buffer restoration we can reduce nutrients and bacteria in our water," but it is all pretty academic until you see these things up close. I really want to thank Representative Sanders for asking me out for this tour."
The two House members toured flood control structures in Kingfisher and Canadian counties and toured Blaine County land enrolled in the newly initiated Clean Water Act: Section 319 water quality project on the North Canadian River between Canton Lake and Lake Hefner. The conservation improvements they viewed, while in rural areas, have a direct impact on urban and suburban areas of Oklahoma, according to Clay Pope, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
"The dams we toured with Representative Sanders and Chairman Miller protect areas around Guthrie and the west side of El Reno, suburban areas of the Oklahoma City Metro Area, and the water quality work we saw in Blaine County helps protect the water on the North Canadian River, which provides Oklahoma City with a large portion of its drinking water," Pope said. "I think these sights highlight the importance of conservation work in rural Oklahoma in protecting the environment for all Oklahomans. We really want to thank Rep. Sanders for putting this tour together and we want Chairman Miller to know how excited we were to show him these needs first hand."
Representative Ken Miller, chairman of the Oklahoma House Appropriations Committee; Representative Mike Sanders of Kingfisher; Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Mike Thralls; and Steve House, Blaine County agriculture producer and Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts vice president, visit during a recent tour of conservation projects in central and western Oklahoma. (Courtesy photo.)