Local & Regional
10:33 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Water in the River by 2021?

Approval of a Zink Dam project by the Army Corps of Engineers could open the door for more low-water dams on the Arkansas River. Altogether, the projects could mean water in the river by mid-2021.
Credit KWGS News

If all goes according to plan, Tulsans could see water in the Arkansas River — permanently — by mid-2021.

A big project on the river is closer to getting started, as improvements to Zink Dam should get permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers in the next two weeks.

Vision 2025 Program Director Kirby Crowe said Corps approval is important for more than that one project.

"River Parks has accepted all the permit conditions," Crowe said. "It's been nearly a two-year process with the regulatory agencies during the permitting time, and this sets the example for all of the low-water dam projects." 

The permit covers improvements to the dam itself and changes to the shoreline that are part of the Gathering Place park design.

Approval of the Zink project may open the door to low-water dams in Sand Springs and at the Tulsa-Jenks border. Altogether, they mean water in the river all the time.

Crowe said the Corps will have to approve the projects separately and as a whole, however.

"There will also be an Environmental Impact Statement document done, a NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] document that addresses the cumulative impacts of all of the projects," Crowe said.

The total estimated cost of the dams was $163.5 million in 2010. Tulsa City Council's River Infrastructure Task Force has asked for updated cost estimates.

At its second meeting, held Thursday, the task force went over a 2012 report from the River Development Task Force. Architect Herb Fritz was chair of the 2012 task force. He said the city has always been good at planning river development but hasn't always been able to follow through.

"There were some opportunities to do some things many, many years ago that certainly would have helped us in terms of development now," Fritz said. "Right now, we have to go back and rebuild a dam that was built in the '70s. But it's been too long. Something else should have been done, maybe in the '90s."

Fritz said Tulsa can still implement many of the 2012 task force's ideas and take full advantage of the Arkansas River.