Task Force Thinking Trust for Dam Funding

Jul 17, 2014

Zink Dam has an estimated annual maintenance cost of $21,000, but expensive repairs and part replacements aren't being saved for between projects. An Arkansas River task force is discussing forming a trust to pay for the operation and maintenance of low-water dams along the river.
Credit KWGS News File Photo

A task force continues to figure out how to pay for dams that would put water in the Arkansas River.

Members support a trust funded by sales or property taxes. Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin said operating and maintaining low-water dams needs consistent funding.

"It's tons easier to contribute $100,000 a year for 30 years rather than trying to find $3 million in a budget 30 years from now to replace the gates or paint or replace parts of the dam or do anything else," Lakin said.

For Zink Dam, the air bladders that move the gates last about 30 years and cost $1.2 million to replace. Putting $40,000 a year into a designated fund would save enough money to replace them at cost.

Creating an entity similar to Tulsa’s stadium trust could work. Funding from sales tax would have to be approved by voters, while special assessment districts could be created by each participating city’s government.

Vic Vreeland handles government affairs for Creek Nation. He said there’s one wrinkle in the plan.

"Riverwalk on the Jenks side's not in tribal trust, but the casino on the Tulsa side is in tribal trust," Vreeland said. "When it's in tribal trust, there's no taxation there as far as ad valorem tax or sales tax."

The Creeks could contribute payments in lieu of taxes based on what tribal land would generate if it could be taxed.

Tribal leaders support building the dams.