The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 19, 2014

Water coalition continues to look to Grand Lake as possible water source

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. — Though the signs are not promising, the Tri-State Water Resource Coalition is not ready to write off the possibility of getting water from Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Northeast Oklahoma.

During a meeting Wednesday at the Mount Vernon Arts and Recreation Center, Harry Styron, executive director of the coalition, said: “We want to proceed on two fronts simultaneously — the Missouri reservoirs for Southwest Missouri and a tri-state solution involving Grand Lake. I don’t want to leave one behind unless we have to.”

Styron told members of the coalition that he had met recently with an official of the Grand River Dam Authority and with water officials in Kansas to see how the coalition might help communities in Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma with their water issues.

Styron said he is trying to develop the idea that sending cleaner water from Missouri to Grand Lake might make it more palatable for Oklahoma to sell water back to the coalition for use by communities in the Tri-State Area. A pipeline from Grand Lake to the Joplin region is a lower-cost option that could help several communities along the way.

“Without approval of the Oklahoma Legislature, it is highly unlikely we would be able to use water from Grand Lake,” he said. “I’m trying to develop the idea that the only possible way to make it palatable to Oklahoma is to combine it with some things Oklahoma would want, and that’s a cleaner Grand Lake.

“We could develop a plan that says there will be water exported to Missouri. It would be used, cleaned and put back in the Spring River like it already is. They need help with water quality. This might be a way to make the exporting of water more attractive to Oklahoma.”

When it became apparent that Oklahoma was not interested in exporting water to Missouri, members of the coalition in Northeast Oklahoma and Southeast Kansas dropped out of the group.

Members of the coalition said such an idea could create “a closed loop” in which water from the lake is recycled through the Tri-State Area.

Members of the coalition also said that ongoing work in Southwest Missouri that includes voluntary water management plans for Spring River and Shoal Creek, and the Missouri Waters Initiative could improve the quality of water that is flowing from Missouri into Grand Lake.

The coalition will continue its effort to determine whether surplus water in Stockton Lake and Table Rock Lake could be used to provide additional water to several communities in Southwest Missouri.

The coalition is to meet with representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers from Little Rock, Ark., and Kansas City on April 9 in Springfield. The participants in that meeting will outline Phase 3 and how it will be financed.

“We will try to identify the sources of water and the quantities required to meet the gaps in public water supply identified in Phase 2,” Styron said.

Phase 2 provided a 40-year projection of the regional water supply under varying climatic conditions. Phase 1 was an inventory of those water supplies.

How it started

THE TRI-STATE WATER RESOURCE COALITION, which is seeking new sources for water in the region, was formed in 2003 in Joplin after a study showed that water shortages could occur in Southwest Missouri during periods of extreme drought should the area’s population continue to grow.

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