The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 20, 2012

Tulsa dam funds denied by court

By Kevin Hassler, Associate Editor
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — State Sen. Patrick Anderson was pleased to hear Tuesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the use of $25 million in state bond funds to make improvements to Tulsa’s Zink Lake Dam.

Anderson had challenged the proposal as violating the state constitution.

Justices unanimously ruled the proposal would be an unconstitutional gift to the city of Tulsa, which owns the dam.

“In reality, the bonds appear to be nothing more than a gift to the city of Tulsa and surrounding communities from the state,” the court ruling reads. “This type of gift is precisely what is prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution, Article X, Sections 14 and 15. Accordingly, the proposed bonds are unconstitutional.”

“I appreciate the court’s prompt attention to this matter, and I certainly agree with the court’s conclusion that the issuance of these bonds would violate the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma,” said Anderson, R-Enid. “In the future, I would hope that policy-makers will pay closer attention to the state Constitution.”

The Legislature approved a bond issue in 2009 that included work on three low-water dams along the Arkansas River. The federal government was to kick in $50 million for the project, but that money never was appropriated.

Legislators were told at the time the project would create 9,450 jobs, Anderson has said, and have a $2.8 billion impact on the state’s economy. Since the federal funds never were appropriated, the project never moved forward.

In challenging the constitutionality of the dam proposal earlier this year, Anderson said spending the money on Zink Lake Dam is not what the Legislature intended when it approved the bond issue.

Arguments were made Nov. 8 before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state and Tulsa River Parks Authority had argued the project serves a state public purpose and funding should be allowed to go forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.