A bill that would mandate the Grand River Dam Authority undertake a study of selling waters under its control to the state of Missouri was referred to the House Rules Committee, where legislation typically languishes.
Lawmakers should let this measure — and any other legislation that would contemplate the sale of Oklahoma's water to interests outside the state — die where it lies. House Bill 4127, introduced by Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, would set a dangerous precedent and prove perilous if it ever were to become law.
It was only about a dozen years ago when Oklahoma became embroiled in a legal battle with Tarrant Regional Water District, which wanted to drain Oklahoma's reservoirs to serve the rapidly expanding population of North Texas. The district's need for our water was so great it spent $6 million and pursued its claims to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fortunately, Oklahoma had laws in place that protected its water resources from out-of-state interests such as those in North Texas. Roberts' bill, if passed, would erode those protections and open the door to those who exploit our limited water resources — out-of-state corporate looters who already take advantage of loopholes in Oklahoma's lax permitting laws.
While southwestern Missouri has a growing population, reporting from the Joplin Globe notes officials there made no request for the study. In fact, they are exploring options in Missouri after previous discussions with GRDA left them with the impression it "would be a really tough lift" to import water from Oklahoma.
It should be a tough lift. While there might be a little more water than usual right now, that's not always the case. And there are unmet needs in Oklahoma when it comes to water. There are ongoing legal battles between consumers of water in the western part of the state who want to pipe it from resources on this side of the state.
GRDA Chief Executive Officer and President Dan Sullivan told the Globe he didn't request the legislation or discuss it with officials in Missouri. Sullivan said he likes the idea — he should discard that notion and resist any attempt to study or sell Oklahoma's water to interests outside the state.
Roberts and Sullivan need to remember this: Waters under the control of GRDA, which include Oklahoma's scenic rivers and streams in addition to the Neosho and Spring rivers, belong to Oklahomans.