CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, June 5, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3263, the Lake Thunderbird Efficient Use Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on October 26, 2011, by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote on February 29, 2012.
H.R. 3263 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the Norman water project in central Oklahoma to store water conveyed from other water projects. Specifically, the bill would authorize the Secretary of Interior to amend an existing contract, or enter into one or more new contracts, with the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District for the storage and conveyance of nonproject water in Norman project facilities to augment municipal and industrial supplies for the cities served by the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District. The Secretary would only be authorized to amend an existing contract or enter into a new contract if it is determined that there is enough excess capacity in the reservoir on the Little River known as “Lake Thunderbird.” If there is any additional infrastructure needed to enable the storage and conveyance of non-project water in Norman project facilities, the costs of constructing, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure shall be the responsibility of the non-Federal entity contracting with the Secretary of the Interior. The bill would stipulate that nothing in this Act authorizes any expansion of the storage capacity of Lake Thunderbird.
According to the House Report 112-442, Lake Thunderbird was developed as part of the Federal Norman Project in the early 1960s. The Norman Project is located on the Little River in central Oklahoma and includes Lake Thunderbird, Norman Dam, and a water conveyance pumping and pipeline system that provides supplemental water to the Oklahoma cities of Norman, Del City, and Midwest City. Additional uses include flood control and recreation. Since 1966, the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District (District) has operated and maintained the Norman Project under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).
The Lake Thunderbird watershed experienced a major drought in 2005 and 2006, which resulted in the lowest lake level since the dam was constructed. That drought highlighted the need for additional water supply. Reclamation and the District have determined that Lake Thunderbird has the capacity to store up to 4,600 acre feet of non-project water. The District wants the ability to purchase non-project water from Oklahoma City to augment storage in Lake Thunderbird during times of drought.
Reclamation has general authority under the Warren Act of 1911 to allow for the storage and conveyance of non-project water. However, Reclamation does not have the administrative authority to approve the Lake Thunderbird action since the water does not originate within the same watershed. H.R. 3263 would give Reclamation such authority by amending the underlying Norman Project authorization. All costs, including water costs and environmental planning, would be borne by the water users.
According to CBO, “any impact on net direct spending would be negligible.”