By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK - On Monday, Governor Henry approved spending $25 million on three low water dams along the Arkansas. That means river development is a big step closer. Voters turned down the local sales tax to pay for building low water dams, but politicians went around that and have now secured state and federal money to do it.
The Arkansas looks like a river this week, but it won't be long until the flow drops and along with it the interest in developing business on the shoreline. Bicyclist JD Walker has been riding the river trails for 30 years.
"It's a pretty area, and in order to benefit from it, people are going to need to see some water in it rather than just mud and sand," said JD Walker.
The three new low water dams will make it look like a river all the time.
With $25 million from the state, most of the construction money is now in place. It's coming from taxpayers on four different levels. City and county taxes are a small part. Most comes from state and federal taxpayers. Altogether $85.6 million is available out of the $100 million estimated cost.
Even though the new infusion of state money will help make the dams a reality, they'll be built at slower pace than they would have been if voters had approved a local sales tax. That's because state and, in particular, federal matching money comes with a lot of red tape.
"The mix of monies each comes with its own challenges," said Kirby Crowe with Program Management Group.
Kirby Crowe studies what other communities have built around their rivers. He sees lots of potential for Tulsa County, but it's probably four years away.
"It won't be this weekend. We're still several years away. I wish it was faster," said Kirby Crowe.
Walker is used to seeing the ups and downs of the river and expects big things after the dams are built.
"It's going to make all these trails worthwhile," said JD Walker.
The three lakes will be eight to 11 feet deep, so the river will look about the same as it does during peak flow.
The question is what will water in the river mean for development on the shoreline.