Task Force Presents Proposal For Low-Water Dams In Arkansas River

Wednesday, June 10th 2015, 11:00 pm
By: News On 6

Wednesday, after a year and a half of research, the public saw the newest proposal on how to keep consistent water levels in the Arkansas River.

Low-water dams have been the topic of discussion for half a century and the River Task Force is determined to get voters on board and get it underway.

There were similar town hall meetings one year ago and councilor G.T. Bynum said he realized after hearing from the public that time, they had a lot more homework to do.

Wednesday, the discussion included updated costs and how it would be paid for.

The Arkansas River is one of Tulsa's most valuable assets, but the low water levels have been an issue for decades.

Wednesday, the public got its first look at the latest plans to get dams built.

“To say if we're going to do this locally, and not look to federal government or the state, but if we want to do it locally, here is what it would look like if we do it the right way," Bynum said.

There would be four - at Sand Springs, south Tulsa, Bixby, and a refurbishing of the already existing Zink at 31 and Riverside.

All of them would be designed to help regulate water flow and keep the river full as it flows through Tulsa County.

One of the biggest things the task force heard from engineers and experts is the need for on-going maintenance.

"One of the biggest problems we've had is with Zink dam, our only low-water dam, which was built in the 1980s and never maintained, and because of that needs to be torn out and replaced," said Bynum.

The four dams will cost $298 million but that includes a $30 million endowment that would go solely to maintaining the new ones.

4/30/2015 Related Story: Task Force Says It Will Cost $316M For Dam System, More Water In Arkansas River

Bynum explained Wednesday that the project would be paid for with half of the expiring vision 2025 sales tax for the next 11 years.

Still, there are some who don't see the need, and others, like Larry Williamson, made their message clear outside the town hall meeting.

"There is no flood control issue or public safety. It is for economic development and government has no responsibility for economic development," he said.

The next town hall meeting is on June 15th at the Hardesty Regional Library on East 93rd Street.

The task force will incorporate all the feedback from them into the finalized proposal that will go before voters this fall.

If it passes, funding will come online beginning January 1st, 2017.

The dams will be built as the sales tax money comes in, so it could take up to 11 years for all four to be completed.