Army Corps' Tulsa office to recommend higher fee for water

Friday, May 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Tulsa will recommend a higher fee than the $3 per acre foot sought by the city of Bartlesville for water from Copan Lake, officials said.

Bartlesville officials will meet on Friday with federal and state representatives of the Interagency Drought Management Committee, which will discuss the steps needed to meet Washington County's water needs while the Caney River Valley area endures a dry period.

In a news release on Thursday, local corps officials said they do not support Bartlesville's efforts to obtain water from Copan Lake for up to five years at the $3 per acre foot rate.

Bartlesville stopped drawing water from its main reservoir, Hulah Lake, last month because a lack of rainfall has caused the lake to decline.

``These projects are built at the expense of the American taxpayer,'' corps spokeswoman Mary Beth Hudson said. ``We have to somehow recoup that cost and repay the U.S. Treasury.''

When the drought committee met two weeks ago, the corps offered the city a 90-day supply of water from Copan Lake to serve the community. The supply would allow Bartlesville to take 5 million gallons of Copan water daily.

City officials asked the corps to allow them to withdraw 10 million gallons of water daily from Copan Lake for one to five years.

While Bartlesville wants to pay $3 per acre foot for the water, Tulsa corps officials want to charge $53 per acre foot, which is the price the city of Copan now pays for Copan Lake water.

Jan Holsomback, corps hydrology specialist, said officials told Bartlesville all along ``that we were going to recommend the higher cost.'' The Tulsa district office is responsible for forwarding Bartlesville's request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers secretary in Washington, D.C.

``The request will be forwarded to the corps headquarters for decision, but officials here say they will not recommend approval,'' the Tulsa corps press release stated.

City officials have said the corps in Washington might lower the water price for Bartlesville if a federal disaster declaration is issued for the area. Oklahoma lawmakers already passed an emergency resolution lending support to Bartlesville in its effort to supply residents.

Corps officials say they are not in the business of selling water, and that the prices set by the agency are for ``water storage'' in the lakes.

In addition to the request for more Copan Lake water to serve Bartlesville, Dewey and six rural water districts, the city wants federal funding for a study of long-term supply options.