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January 5, 1999

I'm glad to see our city council and mayor still regard an alternative water source as a top priority for 1999. This problem has been with us forever, it seems, and despite reasonable efforts to find a solution, it's still there. Water is a basic need for every community. If we fail to provide an adequate supply, all of us suffer. Forget about any kind of growth. People are not going to locate where water is not available. In a period of time not so long ago, the pioneers of this country looked first for a water source -- a natural lake, a river, an artesian well -- before choosing a townsite. It was, rightfully, their first consideration in building a community.

When Lake Perry was built in the late 1930s, it was hailed as the answer to our needs. It replaced smaller lakes in this area, including the reserve source in the CCC Park lake, and community leaders of that day believed the city's needs had been met for the next half-century. It provided us with a great recreational facility and what appeared to be plenty of water. Well, that was some 60 years ago, and Lake Perry has served its purpose, but its capacity has diminished and our town has grown.

We have a brand-new treatment plant to process water for human consumption and tower storage capacity to serve basic needs, except in times of extreme drought. Lake Perry still has a large surface area, but something has been going on below the surface. It's the natural occurrence that's called silting, and it has robbed the lake of a large portion of its volume. Because of that, our supply of water has been substantially reduced.

Various plans have been advanced to resolve this dilemma and the city council has the ultimate choice to make. The thing to keep in mind is that whatever direction is chosen, it will cost us some major dollars. You don't make such problems just go away by wishing for it to happen. When our city council and mayor settle on a plan, they undoubtedly will submit it to a vote of the people. Don't expect the cost to be minimal. It is not that easy.

In the meantime, talk to your council representative about the matter and share with him or her your views about it. Learn all you can about the various possibilities and think about them. One of these days you probably will be called to the ballot box to help decide how to bring Perry an adequate water supply.

Stillwater recognized a similar problem several years ago and made a deal with the Kaw Reservoir for a pipeline to serve that Payne county city. Perry may have an opportunity to tap into that source by mining a line 12 miles east of here to tie into Stillwater's. Another possibility is a pipeline to Lake Carl Blackwell. The McMurtry Lake idea favored by the Mayor Bud Hollingsworth apparently is a dead issue, even though most of that reservoir (owned by the city of Stillwater) lies in Noble county. Bob Elliott, an engineer operating out of Oklahoma City, who is a native Perryan, has suggested a study to determine the feasibility of dredging Lake Perry to make that reservoir adequate once again. We then would not risk the possibility of unpredictable prices imposed by some agency or community that is not locally controlled.

You've heard some of these ideas now under study, including the construction of an entirely new lake in this county. Whether the answer is a pipeline to the Kaw Dam reservoir, a line to Lake Carl Blackwell, a dredging operation at Lake Perry, or some other possibility, a sizable price tag will be required to make it happen. When decision-making time arrives, citizens of this town probably will be asked to render a verdict. In the meantime, give this matter the serious consideration it deserves and prepare yourself for an intelligent response.