Earlier this month, members of an Oklahoma delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the Partners in Conservation Award from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. This coalition of individuals and agencies worked collaboratively with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Chickasaw Nation to protect valuable aquifer resources and to improve water resource conditions in Oklahoma.
The award to the aquifer resources project was one of 26 national awards to individuals and organizations presented at a ceremony at Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“The Partners in Conservation Awards demonstrate that our greatest conservation legacies often emerge when stakeholders, agencies, and citizens from a wide range of backgrounds come together to address shared challenges,” the Secretary said. “In this case, the Bureau of Reclamation and Chickasaw Nation joined forces with federal and state partners to combat the recent drought and protect the water needed by the Nation, the cities of Ada and Sulphur, Reclamation’s Arbuckle Project and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.”
This partnership involved the late Harold Wingard, landowner, as well as the Chickasaw Nation, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Oklahoma-Texas Area Office and Technical Service Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and the US EPA Robert S. Kerr Lab.
As Oklahoma moves toward completion of its comprehensive statewide water plan, one important strategy that is being used is artificial aquifer recharge. In 2008, the state passed Senate Bill 1410 and directed OWRB to develop criteria to prioritize and recommend demonstration projects designed to recharge aquifers through the state. The Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer underlies about 500 square miles of south-central Oklahoma. As one of the proposed recharge demonstration projects, this site is located near Ada on the property of the late Harold Wingard, a farmer and rancher who championed water conservation and graciously agreed to cooperate with federal, state, and tribal governments on implementing this recharge project.
“These 26 awards … celebrate partnerships that conserve and restore our nation’s treasured landscapes and watersheds, partnerships that engage Native American communities, and partnerships that engage youth.” Salazar noted
The recipients of the Project for the Protection of Aquifer Resources in Oklahoma are:
Bureau of Reclamation: James Allard, Collins K Balcombe, W. Robert Talbot, Mark Trevino. Chickasaw Nation: Kelly Hurt, Wayne Kellogg. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Suzanne Van Cooten. Oklahoma Climatological Survey: Ken Crawford. Oklahoma Conservation Commission: Darrell Dominick , Robert Toole. Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality: John Craig. Oklahoma State University: Meghan Dailey, Todd Halihan, Yasemin Leventeli. Oklahoma Water Resources Board: Duane Smith, Kyle Arthur. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Robert W. Puls. Harold Wingard, landowner. Susan Paddack, Oklahoma State Senator.