Claremore Daily Progress

January 2, 2014

Helm questions land conservation project

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter


Rogers County Commissioner Mike Helm continues to question the procedures of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission as they work to reclaim abandoned mining sites.
On May 19, 1981, Gov. George Nigh signed Senate Bill 217, implementing the Abandoned Mine Land Program in Oklahoma.
Since that time, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission has overseen the reclaiming of more than 4,000 acres in 16 counties.
The agricultural land west of Oologah is one area being reclaimed by the organization. However, Helm wants the project coordinated with the Rogers County Planning Commission.
He brought the issue before the board of county commissioners Monday.
“We are doing this to get them [Oklahoma Conservation Commission] on record,” Helm said. “If we continue to grow, some of these places will be housing developments.”
Helm said his concern was preparing for the future and making sure the county does their due diligence.
The county was not aware of this and the organization did not notify the planning or zoning department at all,” Helm said.
Helm is concerned about the stability of the land for housing development.
Due to growth in the area,  the land will likely be developed in the near future, according to Helm.
Gene Spurlock, an employee of Oklahoma Conservation Commission,  has worked with the organization since 1989 and explained the process at the meeting.
“We put grass back in. We do not put it back for building housing. We would not recommend housing being built on the site,” Spurlock said. “The land can not be pastured for two years.”
The property is for agriculture use, according to Spurlock.
“There probably are homes, which were built on the sites in the past, but the organization has nothing to do with it,” Spurlock said. “That would be a zoning issue.”
“The commission does not restrict the landowner's use of the reclaimed site after construction is completed with one exception. Livestock grazing is prohibited on the site for a minimum of two years following planting of permanent vegetation. This will ensure that an adequate vegetative cover is established,” according to Oklahoma Conservation Commission website.
Dirt and gravel is hauled in to build a road to access the area, according to Spurlock.
We plan on putting in a new fence to keep cattle from the area until it is ready for pasture, Spurlock said.
Commissioner Dan DeLozier spoke about the projects, which have been done in his district stating the organization was able to make the land useful again.
DeLozier complimented the way the commission handled the process saying there has been no issues in his district.
One of the main reasons for the projects is safety, because reclaiming the old coal pits reduces the hazard, according to Spurlock.
“It is a big improvement to the county,” Spurlock said.
The issue was tabled to give Assistant District Attorney David Iski time to review the agreement with the organization.