Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has told those attending a conference that water issues, including its cleanliness and availability, need to be at the top of the state's agenda.


Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has told those attending a conference that water issues, including its cleanliness and availability, need to be at the top of the state's agenda.

"There is no more critical issue long-range when we're talking about our children and our grandchildren than the issue that you all are going to be wrestling with and have been wrestling with already," Edmondson said Monday, speaking to the Oklahoma Water Law Seminar.

Edmondson spoke at the start of the conference, which precedes regional meetings on water issues that will begin in August. A 50-year plan for water use in Oklahoma is expected to be produced from the meetings.

Edmondson said he has an interest in water issues. In 2005, he sued poultry companies in federal court over manure pollution in the Illinois River watershed. That lawsuit remains pending.

He said the Attorney General's office has spent almost $19 million on the Illinois River case.

"We're dealing with a multi-billion dollar industry and we knew it wasn't going to be easy going in," he said.

The Illinois River is a popular tourist destination for rafters and floaters, attracting about 150,000 visitors each year, Edmondson said.

At least one person attending the conference took issue with Edmondson's comments. Eugene Hill, a Bermuda grass farmer from Wynnewood, said that instead of spending millions on the lawsuit, the government should amend its regulations concerning pollution from the poultry industry.

During his speech, Edmondson also discussed a lawsuit involving the state and the Tarrant Regional Water District, which has applied to use water from the Kiamichi River, Cache Creek and Beaver Creek, all of which flow into the Red River.

Edmondson said the district is entitled to take water from the Red River, but that because of its higher saline content, that water is not as pure and clean as the water from the three other waterways.

 

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.