Councilors agree to spend $71 million on Arkansas River

TULSA - Filling the Arkansas River has been a goal of city leaders for years.

Whether it happens or not depends on voters.

Last week, councilors agreed to set aside $71 million in Vision2 money to improve the river, which includes $41 million to repair the Zink Dam in midtown and $30 million to construct a new dam in south Tulsa.

Several flood gates at the Zink Dam have a history of leaking. The more water that escapes through the gates the lower the river gets.

Kirby Crowe is director of the current Vision 2025 program and he's already crunched the numbers for Vision2.

"We believe now's the time to do it. We're well along in the permitting process," said Crowe.

Crowe said construction on Zink Dam could begin next year. The plan includes adding new gates, including to the top of the existing dam, which will raise the water level by three feet.

Construction on the south Tulsa dam would not be ready to start until 2017. It is estimated to cost $60 million. In addition to the $30 million Tulsa would contribute, more funding would likely come from Jenks and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

"That'll mean a lot of economic benefit for that area of the county both sides of the river," said Crowe.

In addition to river improvements, councilors agreed to spend $20 million for upgrades to the Tulsa Zoo.

If passed, Vision2 would extend a current Tulsa County sales tax through 2029.

Critics of Vision2 say it amounts to a new and unnecessary tax. They also criticize how quickly the proposal was approved without citizen input.

Voters will decide the fate of Vision2 Nov. 6.

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