TULSA - A new group has formed with the object of doing what some believe Tulsa has needed to do for more than a century -- develop the Arkansas River.
It begins simply enough, David Arnett of Tulsa River Advocates tells KRMG.
"Don't you think it's kind of simple? Let's get water in the river," he said.
But of course nothing's simple, especially when it involves a myriad of local, county, state, and federal jurisdictions.
The simplified story is that the erection of Keystone Dam in 1964, while bringing real benefits regarding flood control, navigation, and the generation of electricity, has created very real environmental and geological issues for the river's bed and banks.
The solution comes in the form of modern low-water dams, Arnett says, that will help rebalance the natural system, provide water for recreational and scenic purposes, and increase safety.
But the city, which Arnett says needs to take the lead, has not figured any major improvements to the river in its infrastructural improvement plan.
"Nine hundred and sixteen, at latest count, million dollars -- let's round it up to a billion -- so they're going to spend a billion dollars on Tulsa infrastructure and not rebuild the Zink (low water) dam? What's the sense in that?" he asks.
"It is my understanding that a permit to build low-water dams should be forthcoming very soon from the EPA. The problem, of course, is that we don't have money to do it."
Or more to the point, leaders haven't made finding the money a priority.
"This infrastructure package that the city council and the mayor are currently considering has not been finalized yet," he adds. "I believe I, or they, could come up with the money in the current package to rebuild the Zink dam."
He says studies required by the EPA have been done, federal money is authorized -- but not yet allocated -- and businesses want to take advantage of one of Tulsa's most striking features.
However, "there is no private incentive to put a public low-water dam in the middle of a river. This is a public project."
His group's goal is to get leaders to take action and make something happen.