Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt. Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains. It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks. Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree. “It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals. Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land. “That’s a serious weight on the earth and the environment as your final farewell,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure. He said the legislation was inspired by his neighbor: Katrina Spade, who was an architecture graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when she began researching the funeral industry. She came up with the idea for human composting, modeling it on a practice farmers have long used to dispose of livestock.
With more severe weather in the forecast, flooding is a major concern in northeast Oklahoma. Parts of the Tulsa metro and surrounding areas, like Skiatook, Sperry and Bixby are already seeing flooding. Governor Kevin Stitt has toured the already flooded areas and is working with state and city emergency management officials to monitor the situation. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum told KRMG the city has personnel ready to respond to areas most affected by flooding. The water release from Keystone Lake is at a level not seen in decades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to increase the output from Keystone Dam to 215,000 cubic feet per second. Monitor the release here That’s far greater than the capacity of the Arkansas River, so flooding downstream is extremely likely. City leaders in Tulsa, Sand Springs and Bixby are already recommending evacuations. The City of Tulsa has released a Keystone Dam Inundation Map showing areas in Tulsa likely to flood. Click here for the latest update from the City of Tulsa Sand Springs city leaders expect portions of the Meadow Valley neighborhood and potentially others to flood. Highway 51 near 137th West Avenue will likely flood, making vehicular traffic there impossible, according to the city. Keep up with the City of Sand Springs on Facebook here There are flooding concerns in Bixby as well. Areas south of the Arkansas River are most likely to see floodwaters.
The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that appropriates $8.1 billion to various state agencies. A 5% boost in funding will go toward public schools, including money for another pay raise for teachers. The bill funds an average teacher pay hike of $1,220 for most public school teachers. “This is a tremendous budget for Oklahoma because it makes huge investments in our classrooms, gives teachers and state employees another significant pay raise, puts money toward criminal justice reforms, and saves $200 million to help in the event of an economic downturn in the future,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City The general appropriations bill was approved by a 37-to-11 vote. It now heads to Governor Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it. Lawmakers had nearly $600 million in surplus revenue to spend this year and opted to put about $200 million of that into savings, a priority for Stitt. Democrats criticized the plan for huge boosts in spending for the governor and Legislature and not doing enough for Oklahoma's working poor