Raising Level Of Low Water Dam On Arkansas River Gains Support

Thursday, July 14th 2011, 11:33 am
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa River Parks Authority approved a plan to raise the dam at Zink Lake to add more water, the latest step in the effort to attract more development to the Arkansas River. And this time, the theory is: if you build it, they will come.

The plan would raise the dam three feet -- which would add a substantial flow of water -- and hopefully, business.

Zink Lake's a retreat for casual cyclists, rapid runners and avid anglers. All are here to enjoy the water, and they do -- but wish they could fix one thing.

"The water being so low all the time," said Kurt Barron of Tulsa.

"I definitely agree. I think it should be higher," said Tulsan Isabella Harris.

"Oh sure. Everybody knows that," said Bill Richardson, also a Tulsa resident.

Kirby Crowe with Vision 2025, the group behind plans to revitalize the river, says the message is loud and clear.

"The really drive-it-home things have been water in the river, water in the river and access to the river," Crowe said.

Crowe says when crews raise this dam three feet, Zink Lake will be bigger and deeper.

"It will provide a lot better, safer access around the river and around the dam," Crowe said.

"It's nice to have deeper water so it'll be good," Bill Richardson said.

First, a fountain will have to go. It hasn't been turned on in 18 months, and crews call it a maintenance headache.

New gates will be installed to help flush out sediment that backs up the dam. Crews hope the redesign will result in fewer drownings.

"There's a dangerous downstream effect below the dam. We call it the roller. If you get below it, it will pin you against it. We'll eliminate that," said Kirby Crowe, Vision 2025 program director.

The more than $30 million project will be paid for through a combination of local and state funds.

Crews will have to do the job without more than $1 million from the federal government that would have been earmarked for river improvement projects.

That money won't come through.

"None of those funds were anticipated for use on the Zink Lake renovations," Crowe said.

Whatever the cost, river goers say the investment will be worth the boost Tulsa could see in business.

"You'd get more of the generic crowd coming down, I think, if you made it look just a little bit better. A couple feet of water would be tremendous," said Tulsan Kurt Barron.

People who like to use the river will have to be patient, though. It will take around two years to design the project, and then construction will take another two years.

The Tulsa Rivers Park Authority's board support followed a presentation by the design team dealing with the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan.