Task Force Says It Will Cost $316M For Dam System, More Water In Arkansas River

Thursday, April 30th 2015, 1:28 pm
By: Emory Bryan

It always has been almost like an infomercial pitch - how much would you pay for water in the river? $50 million? $75 million?

It's never really been nailed down - until today.

There is now a solid number on what it will cost to put dams in the Arkansas River and to create lakes in Sand Springs, Tulsa, Jenks and Bixby.There's water in the river this week thanks to some rain, but to make it look like that every day, a task force says it will run $316 million.

That would pay for a series of dams that would control the flow downstream and pool the water behind them, creating the opportunity for recreation on the river, and encourage development alongside it.

The impressive number is for a series of dams to keep water in the river all through Tulsa County.

A dam near Highway 97 would create a lake for Sand Springs, alongside existing and planned parkland.

After months of study, the plans have turned into a solid, dollar figure. There's never been a fully researched number on the actual cost of doing that until now.

GT Bynum, a Tulsa city councilor who sits on the River Task Force Chair, says the group is not just picking a number out of the air.

"And now it's our job as a task force to decide what we really view as the top priorities and what we want to ask people in the community to pay for," Bynum said.

Estimated Prices for Dams:

  • Sand Springs $108M
  • Zink $60M
  • Jenks $80M
  • Bixby $68M

The Sand Springs dam will be the most expensive of the four, at $108 million; the Zink dam would cost the least $60 million.

The prices vary so much because the size and design is unique.

The existing dam at Zink Lake would be replaced thru the project, with a new safer design and a better gate to control the flow.

Each one would have an inflatable bladder underneath that can lift them up to hold back the water. The gate could easily be lowered to flush out sediment behind it, and so fish can continue upstream.

The price includes money for operating and maintaining the dams.

"What is proposed is absolutely transformative and it benefits everyone in the region, so I would like to see us find a way to do everything on that list," Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said.

The next step is for the River Task Force to build a proposal the public will get behind.

"Tulsa has come a long way with Guthrie Green and the Gathering, and this is just another thing to up our city," Tulsa's Erin Moseley said.

A proposal could be ready next month, public meetings held in June and July, and a vote on whether taxpayers want to put water in the river, would happen in the fall.

For more information on the river design and costs you can visit the Tulsa City Council's website.