State agencies partner to help homeowners in Grand, Hudson Watershed

Feb 25, 2021

The Grand River Dam Authority is partnering with the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) to offer septic system repair or replacement assistance to homeowners in the Grand Lake and Lake Hudson watersheds. Monies will come from a program managed by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and the Conservation Commission. GRDA will manage the program and ODEQ is providing technical assistance to homeowners. The partners anticipate they will be able work with between 10 – 15 homeowners each year of the multi-year program.

Bacteria, in particular E. coli, is a problem in several of the streams that feed both Grand and Hudson lakes and while bacteria come from a variety of sources, such as cattle, wildlife, waterfowl, domestic pets and leaking septic tanks, improvement in septic systems has been identified as a key element in reducing both bacteria and excess nutrients in the water. Other ways to help reduce bacteria and nutrients include fencing livestock out of creeks, providing a vegetative buffer along streambanks, picking up pet waste and reducing fertilizer use.

“We had a similar program in several northeastern Oklahoma watersheds in the mid-2000s where we replaced multiple septic tanks along with installing other conservation practices and were able to document water quality improvements in several of the small streams in the area. We think this program could help achieve similar improvements in the Grand Lake and Hudson Lake watersheds,” said Shanon Phillips, Oklahoma Conservation Commission water quality director.

Several complaints are lodged each year on septic systems that are not working properly and ODEQ will help promote the program by letting those individuals know about the program and will be providing free soil profiles for some residents.
“One way we can help is by providing the required soil profile to help homeowners know what type of system they need to install. Usually, we charge over $200 for this service but cleaning up our waters benefits more than the homeowner, it benefits all the water users,” said Matt Pace, program manager ODEQ.

Applications will be funded based on available monies and prioritized based on the following criteria: 1) Septic located on GRDA property 2) Septic discharging raw sewage to a waterbody 3) Proximity to waterbody 4) Order in which it was received 5) Full-time residence status (vacation homes will receive lower priority). Submission of an application does not guarantee acceptance into the program. GRDA is currently accepting applications, and for potential participation in the first year of the program, applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on Jun 1, 2021. To receive an application or for more information about the program, please email or call Jeri Fleming at 405-334-6343.

“GRDA is excited to be a part of this program to help area homeowners address a problem that they may not realize affects the water quality of both Grand and Hudson lakes. We all affect water quality; we all have to be part of the solution,” said Fleming.

The program is being administered by Fleming, a GRDA contractor leading the implementation of the Guard the Grand program. Both programs are focused on improving water quality in the region.

“Jeri has brought a new focus to GRDA’s wastewater program as a subpart of GRDA’s Guard the Grand, a program designed to improve water quality throughout the region. We are glad to have her onboard and working for conservation and restoration in Northeast Oklahoma,” said Darrell Townsend, GRDA Vice President for Ecosystems and Watershed Management.

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.