Tulsa's 'Water In The River' Debate Heats Up Once Again

Saturday, January 17th 2015, 11:14 pm
By: News On 6

It's been a debate in Tulsa for years.

A local rowing group on Saturday hosted a fundraiser for its organization and is talking about why it can't practice on the river anymore. Dozens of teens spent the day rowing inside on machines at the Oklahoma Aquarium instead of on the Arkansas River.

Water levels are so low that the Tulsa Youth Rowing program has to practice at the Verdigris River in Catoosa. Levels in the river even have impacted the Route 66 Regatta in recent years, forcing cancellations of the event all together.

"We couldn't have the rest of our races because the water was getting so low, and so half of our day was cut short," Catherine Hughes said.

Hughes is a high school senior and captain of the youth program's varsity team. Rowing is her passion, and it is something she hopes to continue in college. But her biggest goal is to row on the Arkansas River again.

“I think the Arkansas River is beautiful when it has water,” Hughes said. “I think it brings a lot of beauty back to Tulsa. I think when it's low, it just kind of looks sad in way."

It's a goal Arkansas River Task force Chairman GT Bynum is hoping to achieve.

“This is, in my opinion, the single-most transformative thing that we can do for Tulsa, is to put water in that river on a reliable basis,” Bynum said.

But this isn't the first time the the city has tried to put the river on the ballot. Back in 2007, a proposal was turned down. Now the river task force is in the process of developing a plan to bring voters aboard.

“We'll have a series of town hall meetings to gauge that proposal and see if people like it or if they see problems with it,” Bynum said. “And then ultimately I expect we will vote to put something on the ballot this fall."

Hughes added, “I would love for everybody to come to inside the metro of Tulsa, downtown and be able to row on the river because it is such a beautiful area, and it's personally one of my favorite places to row because it is so scenic.”