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Fish conservationists express concerns about Zink Dam modifications

Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 20:19:22-04

TULSA, Okla. — Some fishery conservationists are concerned about the City of Tulsa's plans to make modifications to the Zink Dam.

They say they worry the changes could disrupt the fish migration and impact fishing revenue.

The city heard from citizens earlier this week.

The Vision Tulsa Project on the Zink Dam is a work in progress, but once complete, it's expected to create a lake in the Arkansas River.

City leaders say the changes will improve safety and recreational opportunities for Tulsans.

“This new dam will be able to lay the gates down, clear out the sediment and have a ten-foot deep lake behind it for kayakers for people to enjoy the water, enjoy the lake," Brooke Caviness, lead engineer with the stormwater department for the City of Tulsa said.

The structural changes for the $48 million dollar project include replacing the three gates with 15 and a stair-step design to remove dangerous undertow.

“The existing dam had some issues with safety, there’s an undertow so one of the main reasons for this project was to correct that undertow so we’re putting in a roller mitigation, which is the steps that you see behind me and that’s what that does. If people get stuck in the dam, they are not going to get stuck in that roller,” Caviness said.

The pool depth on the Zink Dam will be increased to 10 feet.

While some conservationists, fishermen, and biologists don't oppose the dam, they do worry the modifications could disrupt the fish spawning habitat and have a financial impact since it's a multi-million dollar economic driver for Tulsa's economy.

“The existing dam was already a barrier for the fish to go through. Because there’s always that solid at least 2 foot. So the new dam we’ll be able to lower down that full 10 foot and fish can come and go up and down that 10 foot,” Caviness said.

Conservationists say the critical fish migration and ecological and streamflow requirements have been removed from the final operating agreement, which does not require the city to lower the 10-foot gates during critical fish migration.

“We will mostly keep the gates up because we want to keep the lake here but whenever we have the need to lower them down we can. It’s not mandated on our corps of engineers' permit, but it is able to happen,” Caviness said.

The city said it is also working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and wildlife officials have been visiting the construction site to make sure they are protecting the fish.

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