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Conservation

Up ] Raptor Burns ] Least Terns ] Eagles ] Save Mohawk ] Forever Wild - 2006 ] [ The Channels ] Mercury Standards ] Audubon Refuge Keeper ] Bald Eagle Delisting ] Trash Plant ] Together Green ]


Statement of the Tulsa Audubon Society on The Channels

The Tulsa Audubon Society is very concerned about the impact of The Channels on our Least Terns, Bald Eagles, other wildlife and river habitats. The plan as presented to the public was very short on details, leaving the Tulsa Audubon Society little on which to comment. The consultants to Tulsa Stakeholders claim they have taken these environmental and other concerns into account and addressed them, and we planned to make an assessment when we learned the details. TAS has been serving on the Arkansas River Advisory Committee for the last several years, and that committee met with the project consultants to ask questions, receive answers and learn the details of the plan. On October 31st, we received answers from The Channels consultants concerning the environmental issues raised by the group.

Having studied their assessment, our concerns have not been fully addressed.

We are not against river development, and strongly support the Arkansas River Master Plan that was recently developed. That plan was developed by the Corps of Engineers and INCOG with extensive input from the community. They put together the Arkansas River Master Plan Advisory Committee, and Tulsa Audubon was involved in that planning. The current Master Plan is very well thought out and recognizes the intrinsic value that the Arkansas River already brings to Tulsa. Because of extensive input from the community, they developed an excellent plan, balancing the natural features of the river with the development needs of the community. You can get more information about the master plan at www.incog.org/ark%20river/default.htm

The Channels is based the premise that Tulsa is an undesirable place to live, especially for young professionals, and that this project will provide an attractive public meeting place near the water. Economic development is not our area of expertise, but there will be many negative impacts from this project. Most would result from the conversion of a free-flowing stream to a shallow 12-mile long lake. These are some of the aspects of the river that would likely be impacted:

  • Fish spawning and migration

  • Use of the riverbank as a corridor by land-based wildlife

  • Least Terns, an endangered species - (New nesting islands are planned, but the lake would destroy foraging areas)

  • Sediment transport

  • Water quality (toxins accumulate more readily in relatively still waters)

  • Bald eagles, a threatened species (especially if wind turbines on the riverbank are included)

  • Esthetics – Many feel a flowing stream is more beautiful than a pond, and it is simply not possible to mitigate the loss of a twelve-mile stretch of prairie river "in kind" -- it is irreplaceable. Yes, the river is already compromised and its natural state altered by the Keystone Dam, but it does retain valuable natural characteristic that would be lost if this project proceeds.

Other successful water-based recreation areas have indeed helped to revitalize areas in cities like San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Vancouver, etc., but these were not produced by destroying natural areas. Instead they usually were built in undesirable, industrial areas that were not the home of an endangered species, the Least Tern.

The responses to the Advisory Committee from the consultants were sketchy or insufficient. The details will seemingly be worked out during the design phase of the project, after a proposed bond election (and after all consultants have been paid.) Is this really good planning?

For instance, there are plans, and budget, to construct new islands for the Least Terns. But for the islands to be used by the terns they must be located near shallow water feeding areas. But no details about how this will be accomplished have been developed. The plan is to study this issue and handle it in the design phase. This leaves TAS nothing to assess at this time since they have not fully addressed this issue. We don’t know if it will work, and we don’t know what it will cost.

Unfortunately, doing detailed studies and modeling in the design phase is their answer to almost all the concerns about this project. For instance, they plan to spend nine months creating a detailed groundwater model of the project. That Is certainly necessary, but the plan we may be asked to vote on is based on optimistic guesses about what this model will show. They have even stated they are still “researching flow volume and cost to validate our order of magnitude costs.” In other word, they have yet to validate if their cost estimates are even in the ballpark.

The entire budget of the project is an optimistic guess. They plan to work out the details in engineering studies and modeling AFTER the election. These studies could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expense. The project may even found to be not physically feasible as currently envisioned, wasting more tax dollars. Therefore, we cannot endorse this project since there are far too many unknowns, assumptions and guesses about specific design elements and costs.

Many comprehensive studies from the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and independent engineering, environmental and biological consultants need to be completed. These then should be brought back to the Advisory Committee for review to assess the whole project and its economic and ecological impact upon Tulsa. Once this is done, this project may or may not prove to be feasible. At this time it, it is premature to send this issue to the voters.


Following is an abbreviated version published as a letter to the editor in the Nov 19, 206 Tulsa World:
 
The Tulsa Audubon Society is very concerned about the impact of The Channels on wildlife and river habitats, especially Least Terns and Bald Eagles. TAS serves on the Arkansas River Advisory Committee, which has just received answers to its environmental concerns.
 
Having just received those answers we cannot endorse this project. There are too many unknowns, assumptions and guesses about specific design elements and costs.
 
For instance, there are plans and budget to construct new islands for the Least Terns. But the terns will only use them if located near shallow water feeding areas, and there is no detailed plan for accomplishing this.
 
The response is to study and handle it in the design phase, so we can't assess if it will work or know the cost.
 
The studies and modeling needed to develop detailed plans and cost estimates are all scheduled after the design phase, after the proposed election. The detailed groundwater model will take nine months, so a February vote on will be based on optimistic guesses. They have even stated they are still “researching flow volume and cost to validate our order of magnitude costs.”
 
The results of these detailed studies could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional expense.
 
After these studies are completed the plan should be brought back to the Advisory Committee for review by the experts to assess the proposed solutions. Once this is done, the project may or may not prove to be feasible. Only then should an election be considered.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Kennington
President, Tulsa Audubon Society

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2013 Tulsa Audubon Society
Last modified: January 28, 2014

 

 

 

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