Geologist Leads Group Opposing Arkansas River Portion Of Vision Plan

Thursday, March 3rd 2016, 6:20 pm
By: News On 6

A group led by a local geologist is coming out against the river portion of the Vision Tulsa tax renewal.

The group says the plan isn't extensive enough when it comes to fixing the Arkansas River levee system.

Both sides, for and against, agree the levee system that controls the water in the river is old and needs to be fixed, but it's how to do it where they disagree.

Bob Jackman is a geologist who specializes in Hydrogeology; he's leading the opposition against the Vision Tulsa tax renewal plan.

“If someone says, ‘You're just trying to scare us,’ I'd say you are right. This is scary,” Jackman said. “The city's number one enemy in public safety is the Arkansas River and the terrible conditions of the levee system."

He believes the current vision plan doesn't provide enough money, or the right projects, for fixing the problem and believes it should be a separate proposal.

County Commissioner Karen Keith has been in discussion with Jackman and said, while he has valid points about the crumbling levee system, he doesn't understand the bigger picture.

"I even asked Mr. Jackman, I said ‘Please, just help me work with our legislators to help them push for this. Let's put your energies in that area. Let's not kill the golden goose which is this package,’" Keith said.

Vision Tulsa proposes to take the low water dams and create economic development along the river while fixing the deteriorating levee system.

It's a package Keith has spent a lot of years working on, and she said the money from Vision would start the flow of more federal money.

"It would be devastating. It is critical that we get this $10 million - five from the city, five from the county - in these packages so that we can then go after the federal matching dollars," Keith said.

It’s the extra federal money that would ensure a more secure levee system.

"Do it right, do it to a 500-year level so that we can see real economic development along those edges," said Keith.

Jackman would like Vision better if it were broken down into three parts and said he won’t get on board unless something changes.

“Let’s do the whole thing over again and do it right,” he said.

City Councilman GT Bynum, with the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force, said in a statement, "This low water dam plan was developed over 15 years by expert engineers and federal regulators charged with protecting the public. It is their design, but we are locally funding it. The proposal also includes the full amount requested for levee repairs by our local expert on the levee system, the Levee Commissioner. This would be the largest public investment in our levee system since they were built in the 1940s. You can't please everyone, but our task force relied on the expert professionals to tell us what was needed and I hope Tulsans do the same."