City Beat Bulletin
Your City, Your News 
April 24, 2019
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Breaking News
Water rights become feasible at Copan Lake
Changes to Corps pricing structure good news for Bartlesville
Purchasing water from Copan Lake to help ensure meeting the area's long-term potable water needs into the future became a possibility today thanks to changes to the pricing structure at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, announced today that because of a provision he authored in  America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed Bartlesville will be able to purchase water from Copan Lake at a reasonable cost.

The changes come after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued implementation guidance for  America’s Water Infrastructure Act . The guidance states that the district commander should identify the most recent contract entered into by the local government and any new contracts cannot exceed 110 percent of the previous contract. The Tulsa District has determined that the most recent prior contract of the City of Bartlesville in the Verdigris River Basin was entered into in 1982, for water supply storage at Hulah Lake for a price of $67.38 per acre-foot of storage. Applying the "not to exceed 110 percent" factor yields a rate of $74.12 per acre-foot.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently quoted Bartlesville nearly $2,000 per acre-foot for a water storage contract — an unacceptable increase that would make purchasing water financially impossible without burdening ratepayers,” Inhofe said in a press release issued today. “The implementation of my provision in the water infrastructure bill today will guarantee stable water storage prices for the City of Bartlesville at just over $70 per acre-foot, allowing the community to support further growth and economic development.”

Bartlesville City Manager Mike Bailey said many people are to thank for making today's decision a reality.

“The implementation guidance that was issued by the Assistant Secretary of the Army is a historic event that was made possible by the tireless effort of many people in our community," Bailey said. "The addition of the water rights on Copan Lake will help to ensure the security of the Bartlesville region’s water supply for the foreseeable future. This event, combined with the City’s planned wastewater reuse project, will provide a drought resilient water supply for our area through at least 2060.

“Sen. Inhofe, Sen. and former Bartlesville Mayor Julie Daniels, Water Utilities Director Terry Lauritsen, retired City Manager Ed Gordon, retired Water Utilities Director Mike Hall and many other people — including all members of the City of Bartlesville Water Resources Committee — have helped to make this a reality. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, this water supply is available to our area at a rate that is both affordable and fair to our customers.

“As soon as a contract is executed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Bartlesville will have immediate access to this water through our existing infrastructure, and for the first time since we began pursuing this avenue in 2007, we will have another water source to combat a drought emergency.”
The City of Bartlesville Water Resources Committee was formed in 2003 to seek new avenues for water supply sources after severe drought conditions hit the area in 2001-02. In 2006 the City contracted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study to determine the most economical water supply. The Corps completed the report and recommendations in December 2007, and at that time the City began petitioning the Corps of Engineers for a reduction in the cost of water supply at the lake.

"On behalf of the City of Bartlesville and those neighbors we supply with water, I would like to thank Sen. Inhofe for his tremendous work and leadership in ensuring that needed and affordable water supply for Bartlesville and its surrounding communities is now soon to be a reality,” Mayor Dale Copeland said.

“Through his successfully securing the necessary language in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 and his work with the leadership of the Army Corps of Engineers to make certain the language was correctly implemented, his outstanding work on this vital issue cannot be overstated. The 50,000 people in the region who depend on access to reliable water storage in order to keep up with regional growth and to foster economic development owe Sen. Inhofe their sincere thanks."
Oklahoma Sen. Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville), former Bartlesville mayor and a current member of the City's Water Resources Committee, said while the challenges the city faced in the aftermath of the drought were significant, the outcome was "worth the work and wait."

“Ours is indeed a unique community, as we faced a serious challenge together and many brought their expertise and time to the table," Daniels said. "We didn’t know we were starting on a long — and sometimes frustrating — journey. But the outcome was well worth the work and the wait.

“Good things come to those who wait and work toward the goal. What began as a very scary time during a historic drought in 2001 and 2002 ends today with the announcement that the City of Bartlesville and its regional water customers will have affordable additional water supply thanks to the efforts of many people and led by the commitment of Senator Inhofe to get it done.”

For more information, see:

  • January 17, 2018 – Inhofe questioned Lt. General Todd Semonite, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about Bartlesville water storage costs. 
  • May 8, 2018 – Inhofe, Barrasso, Carper and Cardin introduced America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which included the Bartlesville provision authored by Sen. Inhofe.
  • May 22, 2018 – America’s Water Infrastructure Act unanimously passed the EPW committee.
  • October 10, 2018 – Senate passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
  • October 23, 2018 – President Trump signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act into law.

Photo by  Marco Del Borrello  on  Unsplash
A Look Back
City of Bartlesville: Water, then and now
City's water history takes many turns since 1897 founding

The City of Bartlesville provides water not only to Bartlesville residents but to the entire region, including the cities of Dewey, Ramona and Ochelata, as well as the Bardew Water Association and seven rural water districts in Washington, Nowata and Osage counties.

This is a huge undertaking, and one that the City of Bartlesville takes very seriously — from the City Council, which must oversee routine items such as water-related agreements and contracts to more unpleasant tasks such as implementing rate increases when needed — to the Water Department technicians who treat the City’s potable water and monitor it at every point from intake to delivery.

Bartlesville’s water systems have changed greatly over the years, beginning shortly after the city was founded in 1897, when water was utilized from the Caney River, which at that time was the city’s sole water supply. The Bartlesville Water Company constructed a dam on the Caney River — where the present State Highway 123 road crosses the river — to impound water and supply the water needs for the growing community. In 1914, the dam was raised by two feet and, finally, in 1937, an additional three feet brought it to its current height.

Water needs during these early years ranged somewhere around 1.2 million gallons of water per day (mgd) being pumped to water customers, according to Bartlesville Area History Museum records — far less volume than today’s annual average of 6 mgd. (This average is about 2 mgd less than past years, as use has fallen steadily since peaking in 2006-07.) During peak usage, or the warmer, drier summer months, that average more than doubles, at around 12-13 million gallons of water used per day.

Records indicate the City of Bartlesville took over water distribution for the community around 1940, and that it was around that time that local and state officials began working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build Hulah Lake as a federal water resource project. In addition to Hulah Lake, the City of Bartlesville commissioned and built Hudson Lake, located northwest of Bartlesville, in Osage County. Hudson Lake was completed in 1949. In 1953, the City secured additional water rights for Hulah Lake, and the remaining rights were secured in 2010.

Construction of Hulah Lake provided a new source of water, but it accomplished much more than this. The lake also provided flood reduction to the Bartlesville community, which was greatly needed at the time. Multiple flooding events in the late 1930s and ’40s proved an urgent need for flood control — a need that was eased with the construction of the new lake as flood reduction benefits from the lake greatly reduced downstream flooding within the Bartlesville community.

Shortly after Hulah Lake was completed, in 1957, Bartlesville signed a water supply storage contract for 15,400 acre-feet, or 9.6 mgd. Smaller water supply storage agreements were also signed in 1970, for 2,200 acre-feet, or 1.4 mgd, and in 1980 for 2,100 acre-feet, or 1.3 mgd.

With Hulah Lake as the primary water source and flood control for downstream communities, the area’s water needs were largely met for several years — until severe drought conditions in 2001-02 prompted the City of Bartlesville to begin seeking alternative/additional water sources. Multiple studies, including the extensive Corps of Engineers Planning Assistance to States (PAS) study, were conducted to identify the most feasible options, and City leaders sought legislative assistance to obtain affordable water rights to Copan Lake, located north of Bartlesville.

In the end, the City’s existing water sources, Hulah and Hudson lakes and the Caney River — in addition to water rights (to be acquired) at Copan Lake — were identified as the most viable options to sustain the area’s water needs for the next 50 years. But while some temporary water rights were granted in the wake of the drought to help meet immediate needs, the federal government had yet to intervene on the City’s behalf to provide additional water from Copan Lake at a rate affordable to taxpayers.

Because the cost to acquire water rights for Copan Lake at the previous rate, in addition to constructing water lines and pump stations needed to pump the water to the City’s water treatment plant, located northwest of Bartlesville, would place an unreasonable burden on the citizens of Bartlesville and the City’s larger water customers, the City of Bartlesville continued to explore other, more viable options to meet the community’s water needs into the next 50 years and beyond. Earlier this year the City Council approved measures to facilitate the City’s ability to utilize the “Water for 2060 Law,” which will allow the City of Bartlesville to recapture treated water after it is released upstream in the Caney River. The cost to implement this program is estimated to be about $8.2 million. Some of that cost will be covered by a $750,000 grant from the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART Drought Response Program: Drought Resiliency Projects.

Today, Bartlesville and its water customers use an average of approximately 6-7 mgd, about 4 mgd of which are taken from the Caney River and approximately 2 mgd from the City-owned Hudson Lake. The newly acquired ability to utilize water from Copan Lake will allow the City access to approximately 1 mgd via the Caney River. The feasibility of constructing pipeline infrastructure between Bartlesville and the lake to accommodate future water needs will be explored as well.

Photo by Kelli Williams
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Kelli Williams, Editor
401 S. Johnstone Ave.
Bartlesville, OK 74003