Grant to help fund low water dam rejected, deadline looms
April of 2016, Jenks voters said yes to the Vision 2025 Sales Tax Extension, which included a low water dam be built in the Arkansas River connecting Jenks and Tulsa.
If certain funding does not come through by Dec. 31, funds allocated for that project by the City of Jenks and City of Tulsa can be used for other capitally funded projects.
“INCOG recently applied for a federal grant on behalf of the City of Jenks and City of Tulsa,” Jenks City Manager Chris Shrout said. “Senator James Inhofe signed off and wrote a letter in support of INCOG. The grant is very competitive. Usually only 10% of applications get funded. The application was for a trail system on both the east and west side of the Arkansas River and a pedestrian bridge over the dam. We recently found out we did not get the grant. That would have taken a load off the total amount of funding needed to ensure the project is completed.”
The City of Jenks and City of Tulsa have done their part with their portion of the funds needed to build the dam, but a maintenance endowment needs to be funded for the project to be completed and maintained.
According to Shrout and Assistant City Manager Robert Carr in late 2019, no agreement had been reached to fund that endowment.
Now, in late September of 2020, an agreement for an endowment fund still has not been reached.
“We are still looking for money for the maintenance endowment,” Shrout said Monday. “If we can’t come up with that money or an agreement, then the project can’t happen. It has been a challenge. The vision tax was approved in 2016. We have committed more than $16 million. Tulsa has committed way more than that but coming up with the endowment fund has been difficult.”
Shrout said the City of Jenks will work with the City of Tulsa to try and find a solution.
“We need to circle back with Tulsa since we didn’t get this grant and see what our options are moving forward,” Shrout said. “Dec. 31 is the deadline we need to have that agreement in place and without that agreement, the project can’t happen, so the money that would have been allocated for the dam would go to other infrastructure projects, which was how it was written in the ballot language.”
Shrout added trying to ensure the project gets done, because it was voted on by the citizens, is his top priority.
“There are still other options, but if the Dec. 31 deadline for the endowment is not met, that money can then be used for other projects,” Shrout said. “We are going to work with Tulsa to try and come up with a game plan. It’s tough because the voters approved this. This is what they want. It’s just trying to find that additional money to make it happen.”
Both Jenks and Tulsa officials say they want the project to get done.
“Jenks is already a destination city with the Oklahoma Aquarium, the Riverwalk, Golf Suites and the Tulsa Premium Outlet Mall coming. This would add to that and provide some outdoor recreation for people,” Shrout said in late 2019.
Jenks’ share of the dam construction is $16.67 million.
When describing the low water dam project, the April 2016 ballot voted yes by the voters in Jenks read:
“$16,670,000 in funding proposed for Jenks/Tulsa Arkansas River low water dam project for the purposes of constructing, reconstructing, improving, remodeling, repairing, operating and maintaining the proposed low water dam and related facilities with additional funds to be used for capital projects, including constructing roads, road maintenance and park improvements and construction.”
The bond that was passed was for 55% of every penny of sales tax to go to the Vision 2025.
Carr added in the late 2019 meeting that if the funds for the endowment do come in, it will take time to get the dam constructed and placed.
“It still needs to be engineered,” Carr said in late 2019. “Even if the funding comes in, it’s not like construction will start January of 2021. There are environment factors that have to be addressed as well.”
A low water dam in Jenks would allow for a landing park for people to come and go out on the water either kayaks or canoes or other recreational activities.