Northeast Oklahoma will be the site of yet another lake—one on the Arkansas River between Tulsa and Jenks.
Here’s how the Journal Record reported the announcement:
Officials expect the multimillion-dollar, multiyear project, which will include enhancement of a nature trail system and other outdoor amenities, to attract major investment in real estate and retail opportunities.
“Developing the lake and trails along our river in far south Tulsa and Jenks will activate hundreds of dormant acres, giving us unlimited opportunities to create retail and residential experiences while adding significantly to our ability to exercise, gather as a community, and enjoy the outdoors,” Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin said. “It will fill our prairie river with water, which we’ve envisioned for 50-plus years.”
Partners in the ambitious project include the cities of Tulsa and Jenks, the Indian Nations Council of Governments and the Muscogee Nation. The lake created by the low-water dam is expected to cover an area from 71st Street to 101st.
The Muscogee Nation this week agreed to devote approximately $8.2 million to fully fund the project after previous major financial commitments were made by voters in the two cities and other resources were committed by government organizations dating back a number of years. The Tulsa World reported that the tribe’s agreement was contingent upon Tulsa and the Muscogee Nation reaching a development agreement involving a tax increment financing district, or TIF, that includes several acres of land on the east side of the Arkansas River owned by the tribe. The Muscogee Nation will put up $8.2 million for the dam project in exchange for an equal amount of infrastructure improvements to its land.
Key steps in a timeline of the project have included:
• In 2016, both Jenks and Tulsa residents passed “Vision Tulsa” ballot measures to invest in the Arkansas River by building a South Tulsa/Jenks Dam. Tulsa voters approved no more than $64.2 million for the project and Jenks voters approved $16.6 million.
• In January, the Tulsa City Council approved a two-year time extension for potential partners in the project to determine whether they would contribute funding.
• In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Tulsa will receive a $16.2 million grant to create a multimodal trail system in conjunction with the project.
• On Dec. 28, the Muscogee Nation approved its funding commitment.
“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is always willing to sit down and work with our partners in the cities of Tulsa and Jenks to advance development, growth and prosperity on our reservation,” Principal Chief David Hill said in a statement. “This agreement is a win-win for all parties and an example of the things we can achieve when we work together. I want to thank our National Council for its diligence in working toward a plan that takes care of the nation, while joining in the shared vision for the future with our partners.”
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum agreed that the partnership should yield more benefits than just the lake and trail system.
“I look forward to working with them, not just in the establishment of this lake but also in the development of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s adjacent business holdings which will benefit tribal citizens far beyond the Tulsa metro,” he said.
Survey, design, and engineering work is expected to begin in early 2024 and continue through 2025, with construction beginning in mid-2025. A completion date is expected by mid-2027.
“After years of discussion and planning, we are exciting to see this low water dam project become a reality,” Jenks Mayor Cory Box said. “We are thankful to the voters who overwhelmingly supported this years ago, and to our Tulsa, INCOG and Muscogee Nation partners. We consider this project to be the biggest in our city’s history.”
Box said the investment will enhance quality of life and should change the “economic growth trajectory” of Jenks for years to come.
“The lower-water dam, with the trails and park amenities it will provide, will be a wonderful outdoor attraction for everyone in the region to take advantage of,” he said.
INCOG Executive Director Rich Brierre described the investment as a major step forward in implementing a shared regional vision of a series of river lakes on the Arkansas River. The grant funding secured earlier this year by INCOG will provide trail and trailhead improvements on both sides of the river, he noted, connecting the low-water dam and a planned pedestrian bridge and extending an existing river trail system.
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