Tulsa, Jenks, Tribal Leaders Make `Handshake` Deal On Dam Project

Wednesday, September 26th 2012, 7:33 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Elected leaders of Tulsa, Jenks, and the Muscogee Creek Nation have struck a multi-million dollar deal.

The tribe has agreed to pay part of the cost of a dam on the Arkansas River, if the Vision2 sales tax extension is approved by Tulsa County voters in November.

The Creeks won't say how much they'll put in, but there's about $30 million beyond what Tulsa is willing to pay, and that would be split in part between the tribe and the city of Jenks.

What's been described as a handshake deal - as part of Vision 2 - could put water in the river from south Tulsa to downtown.

The planned dam near 101st Street is projected to cost $60 million.

9/23/2012 Related Story: Jenks Officials Excited About Economic Opportunity Vision2 Could Provide

Tulsa leaders have committed to the biggest share of the cost, but Jenks and the Muscogee Creek Nation say they'll put in money, too.

"We know it's going to be millions of dollars, I don't know what our part would be in it," said Principal Chief George Tiger, of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Tiger said the tribe could use money targeted for economic development to pay their share, and while there are no firm numbers, he said the commitment is firm.

"I guess it would be considered a handshake," Tiger said.

The Creeks own Riverwalk Crossing on the west side and a casino on the east side, both of which stand to benefit from an improvement to the river, and he's confident new outside development would follow tribal investment.

"We're looking at even expanding, not just the casino, but property we have south of there that we own, into something else," Tiger said.

9/20/2012 Related Story: Vision2 List Goes Through Another Draft As Councilors Break Down Needs

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said voters considering Vision2 can be confident that a handshake deal between governments is good enough.

"I have confidence, total confidence, that their word is their bond. I still believe in a handshake deal, that a person's integrity can be sealed with a handshake," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said other outside investment, including private donations, might be pledged as well, to ensure the river project is finally done.

So, Tulsa is, for now, committing to pay $71 million to rebuild the existing dam and add the second one in Jenks.

The city council plans to vote on this tomorrow, finalizing the list, while those outside agreements continue to be done on a handshake.