The following letter from Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force Chairman G.T. Bynum outlines suggested changes to a proposal to build low-water dams in the Arkansas River.

An earlier proposal called for building dams in Sand Springs, south Tulsa/Jenks and Bixby and overhauling Zink Dam in Tulsa.

The estimated cost for that project was $298 million.

The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m July 23 in room 411 of City Hall, Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue.

Bynum sent the letter Wednesday afternoon via email to fellow task force members and other area leaders.

Following is the complete text of the email:


Based on the feedback we received at town hall meetings and the discussions our drafting team has held over the last two weeks, I think we are ready to meet again as a full task force next week.  After listening to our fellow citizens for a month in town halls and then listening to many of you in subsequent meetings, I would like to give you a heads-up on what I will suggest to our group so you have time to consider it between now and the meeting next week.

In Tulsa, recurring concerns were raised around the disparity between what Tulsans would pay into a sales tax and what they would get out of it.  There were also concerns about lengthy revenue projections and direct return on investment.  The space in Tulsa between our lakes remains a major concern as well – when people think of “water in the river” they think of continuous water, not two lakes 5 miles apart.

To address these concerns, my suggestion is that we adopt a phased approach to river infrastructure rather than trying to do everything at once.  The phases would look generally like this:

Phase One: Zink Dam, 49th Street Dam, South Tulsa-Jenks Dam, and levee improvements.

Phase Two: Sand Springs Dam, Bixby Dam, enhancements in Tulsa between 49th Street Lake and South Tulsa-Jenks Lake.

Both phases include the relative maintenance endowment funding and associated expenses.  Phase Two would be up for consideration on a future ballot after Phase One is complete.  Obviously, those communities not participating in the program would not be expected to pay for anything in Phase One.

We need to prove to our citizens that we can build these dams on time and on budget, creating a platform of enhanced natural beauty for greater economic development and recreational opportunities.  And we need to prove that in Tulsa before we can expand our horizons.

This approach would not utilize the economic development district model we’ve discussed to date. In discussion with bond counsel over the last month, there is concern that the statute is vaguely worded and no one in Oklahoma has utilized this device yet. Whoever does will almost certainly be the trial balloon for litigation testing the legal bounds of the statute.  We would not be well served by having our proposal tied up in the courts if we are using that device largely out of convenience.  Better to let someone else take on that burden and expense for us.  Ideally, by the time we are ready for Phase Two that will have transpired.

This is just my suggestion.  I am looking forward to a good discussion next week, and hope you will contact me in the mean time with any thoughts related to the above.

Thanks again for all your work on this.  

Best Regards,