Voluntary actions by Oklahoma’s farmers, ranchers and other landowners in partnership with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the local Conservation Districts to reduce non-point source pollution in water has led to the recommendation that eight additional streams be removed from the federal list of “impaired” water bodies, according to Shanon Phillips, Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission Water Quality Division.

“We are very excited to have eight more streams proposed for removal from the state impaired-waters list,” Phillips said. “By working with landowners to address non-point source pollution in a manner that respects private property rights, we are making real progress in improving water quality in Oklahoma.”

According to Phillips, approximately 500 streams statewide are monitored on a rotating basis by the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) to determine if they are attaining water quality standards, particularly those impaired by nonpoint or diffuse sources.  This information is then used to determine Oklahoma’s proposed impaired-waters list, which is then submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final approval.  This final action by EPA determines what streams are determined to be impaired and placed on what is commonly referred to as the 303(d) list.

Last spring four Oklahoma streams had seen enough reduction in non-point source pollution to be removed from this 303(d) list.  In addition, another 170 streams were not placed on this list due largely to the work done by agriculture producers and other landowners to address non-point source issues in their watersheds.   

No regulation necessary

According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of

Conservation Districts (OACD), this recommendation of eight more streams to come off the state’s 303(d) list shows that Oklahoma’s approach to non-point source pollution control, using voluntary, incentive based programs that work cooperatively with agriculture producers and other landowners instead of confronting landowners with additional regulations is working.

“Our efforts in the area of water quality are truly bearing fruit,” Pope said.  “If you look at the success we have had in Oklahoma and compare it to the results shown by other states, Oklahoma clearly has one of the best if not the best non-point source pollution reduction program in the country.  Last year alone, more than10 percent of the total amount of nitrogen reduced from water nation-wide was accounted for by reductions in Oklahoma and more than16 percent of all reductions in phosphorus nation-wide happened in Oklahoma.  When you compare these numbers with what other states were able to accomplish in non-point source pollution reduction, Oklahoma was one of the top five states in the Nation in total nutrient and sediment reduction.  That is a real testament to what we can accomplish when we are able to work cooperatively on these issues.”

The new streams removed from Oklahoma’s proposed 2010 303(d) list include Bull, Cloud, Dirty, and Elk Creeks in the eastern central part of the state; Mission Creek in north central Oklahoma; and Cooper, Dugout, and Little Wewoka Creeks in central Oklahoma.  New data show these streams have improved from impacts from one or more issues such as turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and bacteria.  Final determination by EPA on the de-listing of these streams is expected later this spring.