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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The CLA Continues To Be Active In Fighting For Canton Lake.

The CLA Board of Directors continues to work to change laws and policies that have plunged the Canton Lake Community into the abyss. Although you have not heard much from us publicly, the CLA has been working diligently in the background to represent Canton Lake and its user’s interests. We are having board meetings and discussing future goals and plans to further the organization and to make it’s member’s voices heard.  This forum serves as an update of our activity.

We were very excited to welcome Kermit Raab to our board a few months ago. Kermit works for American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance which is a tremendous organization that has a very large rural voice at our State Capitol. Kermit is also the nephew of Frank Raab, a Canton resident and Oklahoma water pioneer who worked tirelessly to see Canton Lake become a reality many years ago.

We had made plans to attend and have a booth at the Sportsman’s Classic show in Enid to promote the CLA and tell the Canton Lake story to interested sportsmen and women in our area and try and garner support for our cause. Due to lack of overall participation from vendors that show has been postponed.

We have been, and are continuing to be involved in statewide water meetings.  CLA President, Jeff Converse, was an invited presenter at the Out-of-Basin Water Transfers Roundtable at the Governor’s Water Conference in October.  He made the case that water transfers between lakes (e.g. Canton Lake to Lakes Hefner and Overholser) should no longer be allowed anywhere in the state because of the inequities and inefficiencies involved in those transfers.  
Several board members have been regulars at quarterly meetings hosted by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board dealing with issues such as “Water for 2060” ( the statewide water plan/goal of using no more water in the year 2060 than we do today) and “Instream Flows” which is a program to help reestablish and maintain reliable flows in streams and rivers around the state.  
The importance of being involved in the “water business” on the statewide level cannot be overemphasized.  The key to solving the long term problems faced by the Canton Lake Community is in the trickle down effect of policies set and/or laws made on the state or even federal level.  This process is very slow but we must continue and maintain the effort.   

Many exciting things are happening with grassroots water groups from around the state.  We are being invited to form alliances and be a part of various organizations who are also fighting for water rights throughout our state. Besides our alliance with Oklahomans for Responsible Water Policy (ORWP), we have also been contacted by Save Lake Texoma. Many small lake associations like the CLA are beginning to pop up all over the state.  
The longer term goal is to attempt to merge the small associations into one larger group, perhaps under the umbrella of ORWP.  The key is that we need numbers to have a stronger voice to effect change in lawmaking and water policy.  Alliance with other groups will make us stronger.  

The northwest region of the state is taking a major step towards management and use of its’ fresh waters by developing a Northwest Region Water Plan which is a subset of the larger statewide “Water for 2060” goal outlined in the statewide 2012 Water Plan.

We have been invited to participate and have a voice in the North West Water Action Team, an organization made up of policymakers and groups from all over northwest Oklahoma, whose goal is to develop Northwest Water Action Plan.  The end result of this collaboration will be a document or “plan” that will define how, when, where and why water is used throughout northwest Oklahoma through the year 2060.   

We are pleased to be meeting with the new leader of the Tulsa District of the Corps of Engineers, Colonel Richard Pratt.  Col. Pratt replaced former leader Colonel Michael Teague last summer and is now overseeing the district that is responsible for Canton Lake. Col. Pratt will be coming to Canton in March to speak at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet and has requested a meeting with the CLA Board of Directors to do a sightseeing tour at the lake.  This will be a great opportunity for the CLA Board to express its concerns to Col. Pratt while standing beside a dry Canton Lake.  One of the challenges with establishing a long term relationship with the Colonels, is they only serve a 3 year term in that position then they move on and are replaced. While each Col. is in the position of overseeing Canton Lake, we will work to have a positive working relationship with them and make sure they are well aware of the concerns of the CLA members.

One thing is becoming abundantly clear, water is becoming a dominant issue in our state and it is shaping up to be a rural vs metro battle. We must unite with the many rural water rights groups that share our common vision for rural water protected from metro control.  Unification with the numerous small and large water rights organizations may be the only hope we have to have to produce a large enough voice to be heard by the powers that be.  This is a long term fight that requires extreme patience. We knew this was going to be a long term battle when we took it on and we are prepared to stay the course.  You can rest assured that although everything the CLA does in not in public, we continue the fight for the well-being of the Canton Lake Community each and every day and have no intentions of letting up anytime soon.     

It's also worth mentioning the boat ramp at Big Bend was extended thanks to efforts and funding from the CLA, generous businesses and the Canton Corp of Engineers employees. So that's two boat ramps that have had extensions added due thanks in part to the CLA. One in the Canadian area and the other in Big Bend. We have also continued to work with the Wildlife  Fisheries Dept. and placed more safe, man made plastic structures for fish habitat in the lake. This should help improve angler's experiences once the lake refills. We can't do anything about the lake level at this point, but we can work to make the lake better for when we get more water.

 CLA Board Members work in conjunction with local Corp of Engineers employees to extend a boat ramp in Big Bend.

CLA members working with volunteers and the OK Dept of Wildlife Fisheries Dept to install man made fish habitat. This was the second round of fish habitat installed by the CLA.

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