Saturday, March 08, 2008

Oklahoma Legislation that could affect our Methodist Camp Canyojn

TO: All United Methodists
FROM: Joseph Harris,
Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Communications
The Oklahoma Conference of The United Methodist Church

UPDATE: We continue to provide you with further information about House Bill 2774, a proposal to change existing state law about swine-feeding operations. If passed, the measure threatens the future of Camp Canyon, the United Methodist campground southeast of Hinton. A swine-feeding facility operates near the camp.
This bill continues to advance at the state Capitol. We continue to ask you to contact legislators, expressing your opposition to HB 2774.
This request for your action is time-sensitive. A full House vote on the measure is possible on Monday, March 10. House author is Rep. Dale DeWitt; newly listed as Senate author is Sen. Richard Lerblance.
Title 82, the current law, puts certain restrictions on all swine-feeding operations that are near recreational facilities in the state, including the one located near Camp Canyon. HB 2774 would change parts of the law.
HB 2774 has moved through First and Second Readings of the legislative process and was listed under “General Order” as of March 5. The original proposal was considered, a substitute version was presented and amended, and the Natural Resources Committee recommended it as “Do Pass.”

1. Wording has changed yet again in the proposal, and this is creating inconsistencies between sections of the measure when it is read in full. This raises questions as to how closely the measure has been examined and implies a rush to floor action without thorough review.
2. Rep. Dewitt said the purpose of HB 2774 is to change jurisdiction from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to the Department of Agriculture, and he said it is part of a larger move to simplify the functions of state government, according to Randy McGuire, who directs all camping ministries for Oklahoma United Methodists. State residents appreciate efforts to streamline government, but the proposal contains extensive language changes that do not seem limited to that. For instance:
a. Dates have been added in the proposal, distinguishing between new and existing operations. Why? The existing law does not include a grandfathering date.
b. Water terms have been changed in the proposal: “groundwater” and “surface water” permits seem to get separate consideration in this new version. Both are crucial to water safety and quality for human consumption.
c. Title 82, in use for about 10 years, has seemed satisfactory to all parties. The procedures are well established.

BACKGROUND: The existing law includes protection for the water sources and environment of Canyon Camp, which has existed more than 50 years. The camp is located in one of a series of canyons near Hinton--including the state park Red Rock Canyon--which contain rare and fragile ecosystems, according to environmental scientists who have studied the area.
Recreational use of Camp Canyon continues to grow. Annually, it serves more than 10,000 people, from a wide spectrum of groups, and its utilization is not restricted to United Methodists.

WHAT TO DO: E-mail and phone contacts are crucial, due to the timeframe on this measure.
To contact Rep. Chris Benge, Speaker of the House: 405-557-7340, Express your opposition to HB 2774 and ask Benge, who as Speaker controls the agenda for the House, to decline to schedule the bill for a hearing.
To contact Rep. DeWitt: 405-557-7332,
To contact Sen. Lerblance: 405-521-5604,
For other legislators’ contact information, go online to:

YOUR VOICE IS POWERFUL. You can make a difference. Express your opposition to HB 2774, and ask that the legislation be dropped. Title 82 has proven its effectiveness for all parties involved. We ask you to particularly contact Speaker of the House Benge, Rep. DeWitt, and the legislators who represent your area of the state.
This Department of Communications will produce further updates as we follow developments on this issue.

Joseph Harris
Department of Communications

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