Arkansas River dam repairs on hold after OK Supreme Court ruling

TULSA - $25-million in state bonds will no longer flow toward the Arkansas River-- after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the bonds were an "unconstitutional gift" to the city of Tulsa.

That leaves officials re-evaluating how to fix the Zink Lake Dam in Tulsa.

A beautiful fall day brought plenty of people out to run and bike along the Arkansas River Tuesday. Others basked in the sun on the deck of the Blue Rose Cafe.

Patron Jane Corso believes the river is one of Tulsa's best assets.

"I think it's a great opportunity to attract people to Tulsa, and to get more people from this area to come down to the river because it's a wonderful resource for us all," she said.

This restaurant is a first for Tulsa, built right on the river banks. But sometimes, Blue Rose Cafe managing partner Tom Dittus says there's not much of a river to look at.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it as far as we know. So, we just love it when it's in there, and we're not too happy when we don't have it," he said.

The bond money would have funded repairs to the dam at 31st and Riverside Drive to help the water levels.

"You know, it's frustrating that we just can't get the funding that we need to take advantage of this resource that we have here, the Arkansas River," Dittus said.  

Lawmakers approved the bonds in 2009. But matching federal funds to build low water dams never came through. Then the court ruled using the bonds to repair the dam-- unconstitutional.
So now the River Parks Authority is back to square one.

"So we'll have to go back to the drawing board, and see if there are some minimal band-aids we can put on the dam and try to find funding to make it all happen," said Jim McCarthy, chairman of the River Parks Authority Board.

This court ruling comes on top of voters rejecting Vision 2, which would have set aside millions of dollars for the river.

The city of Tulsa released this statement in response:
"We are disappointed in this outcome as this bond money would have helped the city further develop the Arkansas River and be an economic driver for the state of Oklahoma."

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