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AM NewsBrief: Jan. 25, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.

New Execution Dates

A ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has pushed back the state’s next seven execution dates

Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s request to increase the time between the next seven scheduled executions to allow Department of Corrections personnel more time to prepare and train has been granted by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

The next execution in the state - that of Richard Glossip - is now scheduled for May 18. The other six death row inmates included in Drummond’s request are now scheduled to be executed at a rate of one every other month, with a break in December and January, ending in June 2024. However, the last three death row inmates scheduled to be executed in the last three months of this year are still scheduled to be executed at a rate of one every month.

OTA Application Denied

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has hit another snag in its ACCESS turnpike project. A federal decision is forcing the OTA to go back to the drawing board for one of the most controversial sections of the planned routes.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation responded to the OTA’s application to cross two sections of federal property for the ACCESS project’s South Extension - and it’s a no-go. The South Extension was supposed to go along the west side of Lake Thunderbird near Norman, which raised concerns about impacting an already impaired watershed, polluting the area’s main source of drinking water and displacing wildlife - whose access to the lake may be blocked by the turnpike.

According to the Bureau’s website, the land is intended to supply water for the surrounding cities and provide flood protection and recreation. Because a turnpike is not among the land’s intended purposes, the Bureau denied the application.

A statement from the OTA says the planned route was the least impactful to homes, businesses and the environment, as well as the most beneficial for traffic growth. It’ll now have to design a new route, but because the South Extension is the last project on the ACCESS list, it has nearly 15 years to lock that down.

Legislative Session Preview - Water, Environment

Only two rivers in Oklahoma have flowed free and undammed since statehood. Proposed legislation aims to keep them that way.

Although over 78,000 miles of rivers flow through Oklahoma, none of them are federally recognized and protected under the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. And state protections for pristine rivers lost their teeth when the Oklahoma legislature transferred regulatory oversight to the Grand River Dam Authority, which generates its funding by selling water and hydroelectric power.

Republican Senator David Bullard from Duncan has filed Senate Bill 14, which would introduce the Charlotte Hearne Heritage River Act. Named for a southeastern Oklahoma water advocate, the bill would designate and protect the state’s Heritage Rivers, which it defines as any river that’s been flowing free and undammed since Oklahoma attained statehood in 1907.

Only two rivers in the state still meet this criteria: the Blue and the Glover, both in southeastern Oklahoma. In Oklahoma City,

Leading up to the 2023 legislative session, our team of reporters are highlighting issues lawmakers will consider. You can learn more at KGOU.org.

Cherokee Nation Harm Reduction

Oklahoma has one of the highest hepatitis C virus rates in the country. That's why the Cherokee Nation is opening a new harm reduction program in Tahlequah.

Even though Cherokee citizens make up only 6% of Oklahoma's population, a third of the opioids distributed throughout the state went to Cherokee communities, causing health and addiction issues throughout the reservation.

Cherokee Nation was one of 22 programs and the only tribal nation to receive a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant last year to start a program offering clean syringes to reduce the transmission of blood borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis C.

The harm reduction program is now open in Tahlequah for both tribal and non-tribal citizens in need. People can get rapid tests for HIV and Hep C, exchange used syringes for clean ones and receive narcan nasal spray as part of the program.

For more information on the Cherokee Nation Harm Reduction Program, call (539) 234-3785

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