The Arkansas River development plan has potential to both help and harm wildlife. Even though the plan has been studied for years, there are still a lot of questions about how development, both on the shore and in the river, would impact wildlife. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports one of the agencies that will review the plan has concerns about what will happen to some threatened species.
Kevin Stubbs is a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and an expert on how any changes to the river would affect the environment.
"You can't avoid it, it's going to happen any time you build a lake in a river," Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kevin Stubbs said.
Stubbs says the low water dams will have the biggest impact, with the Sand Springs dam possibly improving fish habitat by making the water flow more consistent.
"However, the Jenks dam, there is no benefit to that of aquatic life at all, it's probably a negative impact," said Stubbs.
The backers of the River Project say the river dams, like one in East Tulsa, would increase the oxygen in the water and overall help wildlife by regulating the flow.
"The continual flow on a more consistent basis is a major advantage from the environmental perspective, and one of the main reasons the environmental agencies are supportive of the direction we're going," Ken Levit, Kaiser Family Foundation said.
The Arkansas River is already an unnatural habitat because of Keystone Dam. Adding more dams, according to Stubbs, has the potential to make it better, but turning miles of river into a lake also has the potential to harm the wildlife that has adapted to what's there.
"It ends up not being good habitat for fish and wildlife that prefer a lake habitat, and it's not good for the species that are already there that prefer a river habitat, so it creates this in between habitat that's not good for either one," Stubbs said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service can comment on the impact to the river, but it doesn't have the authority to say yes or no to the development of it. The Army Corps of Engineers issues the permit, called a 404, that is meant to encompass the results of all of the science the other agencies put into the river plan.