- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Gov. Mary Fallin has passed a law that will eliminate a commission that has focused on preserving an Oklahoma river for nearly 40 years.

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission will be eliminated July 1, the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/1WvgHly ) reported. Its staff and responsibilities will shift to a division of the Grand River Dam Authority.

The commission was created in 1977 to carry out the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Act. Its responsibilities included protecting, enhancing and preserving the Illinois River and its tributaries, Barren Fork Creek and Flint Creek.

The commission’s longtime executive director, Ed Fite, told legislators in March that the best way to save the organization’s mission would be to disband and reorganize it under the authority.

The commission had minimal staff and an annual operating budget of less than $500,000. Given Oklahoma’s state budget problems, it expected even more cuts.

“We’re here because of the state’s financial woes,” Fite said. “What is most important is, whatever the name of the organization, whether its OSRC or GRDA, that core mission continues for which there is no endpoint, the protection of our rivers.”

The two staffs met Thursday to begin working on the transition process.

The author has increased its work on water quality issues in recent years and has initiated public outreach regarding preservation and water use in the Grand River drainage area. CEO Dan Sullivan said these missions will now expand.

“There actually is a lot of synergy there,” he said in April. “If you consider the importance of the mission and the lack of funds available, particularly in this difficult budget time, I don’t see another viable option.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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