Revised Plan For Low Water Dams Would Be More 'Tulsa Focused'

Thursday, July 23rd 2015, 7:38 pm
By: Emory Bryan

In a revised plan for dams along the Arkansas River, two that were in are likely out, while another one is new on the plans; and that's adding to the water in the river through Tulsa.

The original plan had dams for Sand Springs and Bixby, but those are on the chopping block after town halls meetings in Tulsa where there was clear opposition to having a tax, mostly collected in Tulsa, pay for expensive dams in other cities.

Instead, the plan could be three dams in Tulsa and two dams in the suburbs later.

After two years of meetings, River Task Force chair G.T. Bynum thought they had the best plan, but that changed after a series of town hall meetings.

“Even people who liked the idea of water in the river had concerns about the approach we were suggesting, so the responsible thing is to go back and revise it and that's what we're in the process of doing now,” he said.

But the task force is divided - some want the larger regional plan and some want to make it more Tulsa focused at first and build Bixby and Sand Springs dams later.

7/1/2015 Related Story: Arkansas River Low-Water Dams May Not Make November Ballot

Jenks Mayor Lonnie Sims called that a big step back, wanting to keep Sand Springs and Bixby in the plan.

"That's the bold vision we all came to the table to accomplish," Sims said.

But the task force learned the Sand Springs dam isn't critical for water flow and questioned whether it's worth the $90 million it would cost.

From the town halls, Tulsa voters questioned the value of a $45 million dam that would create a lake in a suburb downstream.

Tulsa's mayor, Dewey Bartlett, though, is pushing for something for those other cities.

"We're all in this together and what we have to do is come up with something that not only benefits the City of Tulsa but also the cities around us,” he said.

The project always included rebuilding Zink Dam and a new dam at 103rd Street between south Tulsa and Jenks, but now there's a plan for another dam at 49th Street which would create a lake stretching up to about 36th Street.

That lake would create new opportunities for Tulsans to access water that wasn’t in the original plan.

Bynum said the new plan for river lakes is more politically realistic to reach the goal of water in the river through Tulsa.

Leaders in Sand Springs and Bixby said they're still lobbying for a bigger plan, but it looks certain that their dams would not be built in the first phase of about five years.

The river task force still hasn't made the decision final, they'll meet in a couple of weeks to go over it some more.