NORMAN — The U.S. Senate passed the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act this week. Norman city leaders gave a sigh of relief but said the city’s water woes have not ended and that some solutions could prove costly as the region enters its third year of drought.
The President has until Jan. 10 to sign the bill into law.
The legislation, HR 3263, was authored by U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and carried in the senate by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
“The Senate passage of the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act is a victory for Oklahomans dependent on the lake’s resources,” said Inhofe.
The legislation will allow the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District to tap into the Atoka line that runs near Lake Thunderbird. This raw water source can be used to help raise water levels in Lake Thunderbird during drought conditions.
“After another year of drought, it’s more important than ever to ensure Central Oklahoma has a reliable supply of water,” said Cole. “Bringing more water to Lake Thunderbird is a commonsense solution that costs taxpayers nothing. This legislation will help ensure the area can continue its economic growth without outgrowing its water resources.”
Not limited to the Atoka line, the bill allows COMCD as conservators and guardians of the lake waters, to acquire and store water from outside the Bureau of Reclamation system. The Atoka line has served Oklahoma City for several decades. Any cost associated with this action would be paid for by the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District.
COMCD General Manager Randy Worden said negotiations with Oklahoma City will start immediately. Worden said passage of the bill will allow COMCD to provide adequate water supplies. He thanked Cole, Inhofe and Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, for their work on the bill’s passage.
“We’re very grateful,” Worden said. “We’ll get a contract executed with Oklahoma City before we can actually p\ut water in the lake. It’s their pipeline, so we have to abide by their rules.”
“Passage of the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act is great news for Norman and our partner cities of Del City and Midwest City, and we appreciate the special efforts of Senator Inhofe and Congressman Tom Cole on our behalf,” said Cindy Rosenthal, Mayor of Norman. “With water levels still more than seven feet below the top of the conservation pool, Lake Thunderbird has struggled in the face of continuing drought. This legislation will open the possibility for non-project water to supplement our vital water supplies in the future and to meet the needs of our community.”
Rosenthal said she recognizes the city will need to consider further action.
“Tentatively, I think we’ll be talking about this at next week’s conference meeting because conservation will be a necessary step that we have to take because of the continued drought conditions,” Rosenthal said. “What that means for our customers is not yet fully known.”