Trout Unlimited's Scott Hood prepares to release this small trout he caught during the group's fishing trip to the Lower Illinois River near the Lake Tenkiller dam in eastern Oklahoma.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

State Question 777 — also known as ‘right-to-farm’ — would give agricultural producers in Oklahoma the constitutional right to raise livestock and grow crops without interference from future regulations by the state Legislature, without a compelling state interest.

Opposition to the state question comes from multiple sources, but a diverse coalition urging a ‘no’ vote is united by a shared concern: water.


Floaters navigate their homemade raft down the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Okla., during the annual Great Raft Race on Labor Day 2016.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The section of the Arkansas River that runs through Tulsa is changing. For much of the city’s history, business owners constructed buildings facing away from what has been considered a polluted eyesore. But now Tulsa is embracing its most prominent physical feature.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., left, talks with the committee's ranking member Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 16, 2015.
Evan Vucci / AP

Oklahoma officials and the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations spent 5 years hammering out a deal to share control of water across southeast Oklahoma, but coming to an agreement isn’t the end of the process. A fickle U.S. Congress still has to give its approval.

Dustin Green, owner of 10 Acre Woods farm near Norman, feeds a few of his 400 or so chickens.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma voters decide on State Question 777 in November. Supporters call the ballot initiative right-to-farm, but opponents prefer right-to-harm. It’s a divisive, national issue that’s made its way to Oklahoma, pitting agriculture against environmentalists and animal rights activists.

Nasty Fight

A quarry near Ada filled with water from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has ordered city officials in Ada to make a series of fixes to ensure the community has clean drinking water after 2,000 gallons of diesel spilled on the ground near city water wells in April of 2015.

Rural northeast Norman resident Leslie Rard at the end of her 500-foot gravel driveway. It's one of many hard surfaces on her five-acre property the city classifies as "impervious."
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Voters in Norman will decide on a stormwater plan Tuesday that would increase residents’ monthly utility bills. The city says the additional revenue will help deal with runoff created by heavy rainfall and property damage from flooding.

Members of the Choctaw Nation gather at the Hugo Community Center to hear details on the new water deal from attorney Michael Burrage.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

After five years of confidential negotiations, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations have reached an agreement with the State of Oklahoma over water in southeast Oklahoma. The deal has been praised by state leaders as a historic accord that ends the tribes’ lawsuit that blocked Oklahoma City’s plan to pump water out of the region.

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby at a news conference announcing the water deal.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After five years of court proceedings and confidential negotiations, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have reached an agreement with the state over control of water in southeast Oklahoma.

Chief of Choctaw Nation Gary Batton, from left, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and the Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby listen to a speaker during a press conference at the Oklahoma Heritage Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Alonzo Adams / AP

After five years of court proceedings and confidential negotiations, two Native American tribes have reached an agreement with the state over control of water in southeast Oklahoma.

Hugo, Okla., interim City Manager David Rawls.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s primary environmental agency made a private contractor pay just under $1 million earlier in a settlement over improperly treated water in a small city in southern Oklahoma. But the state’s budget shortfall swallowed up the money before the city of Hugo had a chance to use it.

Mason Bolay on his family's farm near Perry in north-central Oklahoma.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

After one of the driest periods on record, 2015 was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma, and the rain still hasn’t let up. But scientists say climate conditions are aligning in a way that could bring drought back to the state.

Out Of Drought

Mason Bolay doesn’t have a lot of time to talk about whether he’s prepared for the next drought. He needs to finish the daily work on his family’s farm outside Perry in north-central Oklahoma before the next thunderstorm moves in.

Ed Fite, executive director of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, stands next to a mountain of life vests at one of the resorts on the Illinois River.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Come July 1, the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will be no more.

Gov. Mary Fallin on May 11 signed a bill disbanding the small state agency, transferring its mission — and employees — to the Grand River Dam Authority, which now takes on the Commission’s role of keeping Oklahoma’s six scenic rivers clean and safe for tourists.

Rep. Charles McCall, R-Atoka, in early May was tapped by his Republican colleagues to be their next leader.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives last week chose a new leader for 2017: Charles McCall. The Republican is from Atoka in southeast Oklahoma, which could bring a unique perspective on water to the Capitol.

Big Fights Back Home

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and audience members listen to a presentation on right-to-farm at the April 19 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Budget cuts and the death of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission were the thrust of mid-April’s regular meeting of the OSRC. But the real fireworks were around State Question 777, which you’ve probably heard referred to as ‘right-to-farm. What you probably haven’t heard it called yet is “State Question 666.”

Nathan and Brooke Hall.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Brooke Hall has lived in the Parkway Mobile Home Park most of her life. She’s never really liked the taste of the water that comes from the park’s wells, but she didn’t think it could be dangerous until she was in the hospital giving birth to her son.

“Doctors and nurses told me I needed to stop breastfeeding while they did blood work and tested for lead because they were afraid that, because I was drinking the water, that it would be passed through to him,” she says.