Wrapping Up The 2012 GRDA Watershed Conference

Langley – Two days of presentations focusing on the waters that flow into Grand Lake comprised the 2012 Grand Lake Watershed Conference in late April.

Hosted by the Grand River Dam Authority and held at the GRDA Ecosystems and Education Center in Langley, the conference allowed researchers, scientists, water quality experts and advocates from the four-state region to discuss the past, present and future of the Grand River Watershed.

Bob Nairn, PhD., the University of Oklahoma's Director for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds, tells participants at the 2012 Grand Lake Watershed Conference about the important relationship and coordinated effort between his organization and the Grand River Dam Authority's Ecosystems Management Department.

“It’s quite an event to bring all these folks together who share a common interest and purpose in protecting the waters of Grand Lake,” said the University of Oklahoma’s Bob Nairn, PhD.

The director of the OU Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds, Nairn took part in the conference, focusing his presentation on the work going on with the Tar Creek area north of Grand Lake.

Several University of Oklahoma students who are completing their studies in environmental science and engineering also made presentations. Those students have been looking at possible metals contamination in lake sediment by utilizing the GRDA Water Quality Lab.

Actually, there were plenty of presentations to cover the watershed spectrum. Researchers from

Zhao Dong, Postdoctoral Researcher with the Harvard School of Public Health, addresses participants at the 2012 Grand Lake Watershed Conference in late April. The conference was hosted by GRDA Assistant General Manager of Ecosystems/Lake Management Dr. Darrell Townsend (left) and the GRDA Ecosystems Department.

Harvard University School of Public Health shared information on a recent study regarding mercury levels in fish, while researchers from Pittsburg State University discussed “community resiliency” in dealing with naturally occurring environmental threats. In between, there were discussions about watershed planning, chemical constituents in water, the 2011 blue green algae (BGA) outbreak, and other topics.

Since the establishment of the GRDA Ecosystems Management Department in 2004, the department has worked closely with other agencies, like the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) on projects designed to preserve the watershed’s habitats. OWRB was among the agencies taking part in the conference

“[The conference] is a coordinated effort by GRDA and it’s really impressive that you get this level of effort and thought and brainpower in one spot,” said OWRB Water Quality Division Environmental Programs Manager Paul Koenig. “Kansas and Missouri are here talking about their efforts in the basin of this lake and who is that going to benefit? The people of Grand Lake.”

According to GRDA Assistant General Manager of Ecosystems and Lake Management Dr. Darrell Townsend, getting all that brainpower in one spot was a primary goal of the conference.

“Because Oklahoma only encompasses approximately 9 percent of Grand River’s watershed and the majority of Grand Lake’s water supply originates from neighboring states, we can’t face these natural resource challenges alone,” said Townsend. “That’s why our underlying theme since the department was created has been to build cooperative relationships across the region that will help us accomplish our conservation and restoration goals.”

This is the second watershed conference hosted by GRDA. The first conference was held in April 2010, in conjunction with the grand opening of the Ecosystems and Education Center.

As part of the conference, GRDA prepared a collection of research contributions in a publication entitled Semi-Annual Watershed Contributions and Regional Partnerships. A limited number of those publications are still available by contacting the GRDA Ecosystems Management Department at (918) 256 0723 or jjaggars@grda.com.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.

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