Senator James M. Inhofe
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to hear from witnesses on the country’s water resources needs as well as comments on the Corps Reform. However, I will admit some disappointment that instead of addressing what our water resource development objectives should be, we are instead discussing how to reform the Corps of Engineers. I seriously question whether this effort will yield the results proponents envision because in truth much of what the Corps of Engineers does or does not do is ultimately decided by Congress, not the Corps.
This nation is involved in a struggle for water resources. We need to decide what our national priorities are . . . do we continue to use our national waterways for navigation and economic development; or do we focus our efforts exclusively on environmental restoration. It seems to me, the latter is the direction some would have us move. Neither economic development nor environmental restoration should automatically have a preference.
I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that the citizens of my state want both. Oklahoma has the most inland port which has provided literally hundreds of millions of economic benefits to the state. We in Oklahoma were recently reminded how much economic activity the waterway in the state generates. Commerce on the Arkansas River was shut down for two weeks following the collapse of the I-40 bridge. In just that short time, the Port of Catoosa, outside of Tulsa, lost over $4.2 million dollars. That means that $4.2 million that would have been pumped into the Oklahoma economy, creating jobs and providing economic opportunity for thousands did not happen. Clearly, my state cannot afford to lose the value of the waterway.
Unfortunately, I get the sense that many see Corps Reform as an opportunity to shift Corps traditional role of waterway development and hence construction to solely environmental restoration. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the need to achieve balance between these two equally important goals. I certainly hope that as we move forward we will strive for balance.
With that in mind, I would to quickly highlight some needs of my state that I hope to have included in the Water Resources Development Act of 2002.
Reconnaissance study Sand Lake in Oklahoma.
Sand Lake, OK was studied in 1950's and 1960's and found to be in the Federal interest. A proposed dam would have been located at the river mile 19.1 on Sand Creek near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1962 for flood control, water supply, water quality control, recreation and fish and wildlife. However the project was place in deferred status in 1984 pending resolution of conflict with the Osage Indian Nation regarding mineral rights subordination. The project was eventually deauthorized in 1999.
Since then, it has become clear that the City of Bartlesville must find a second water source. Currently the City gets all of its water out of Lake Hulah which became dangerously low this past spring. The community is interested in exploring again the feasibility of Sand Lake. Preliminary discussions with the Osage tribe indicate the tribe is willing to negotiate on the mineral rights.
Technical change to a land transfer authorized in WRDA99
WRDA99 (section 563) authorized the transfer of Corps property in Marshall County, Oklahoma to the State of Oklahoma. The property includes Lake Texoma and Denison Dam and is approximately 1.580 acres. The property has been and continued to be leased to the state for public park and recreation. As such, the state was made more improvements, not the least of which is a public golf course.
In determining the “fair market value” of the land, the state is requesting that the value of their improvements not be included in the fair mark value calculations. The initial cost of the improvements were borne by the state, the existing authorization to convey the property would require the state to pay for those improvements again because they greatly enhanced the value of land.
I do not believe that state should not have to pay twice and will be requesting that a technical change be made to the WRDA99 language that would give the state credit for investment already made in the property.
Codification of a Consent Decree between Corps of Engineers and the City of Edmond regarding Arcadia Lake.
The City of Edmond became a cost share partner with the Corps in 1979 for recreational development and water storage facilities on Arcadia Lake. In 1987 a dispute arose with the Corps over cost overruns on the recreation facilities. That dispute was settled in 1992 through a Consent Decree. Included in that Consent Decree was a provision that the City of Edmond thought would clarify a potential future dispute regarding the requirement to pay storage on future water use. Per the terms of the Consent Decree, the City was not liable for payment of future use water until such time that City decided to actually use the water. The cost of the future use water was set at $27 million, which the City paid in October 1999.
In November 1996, the City was notified by the Corps that they had to beginning paying interest on the future use water storage because the 10 yr interest free period following the project’s completion had expired (projected was completed in 1986). However, the City believes that the Consent Decree clearly stated that they were not liable for the future water until such time as they made use of it which occurred in 1999 when the City paid $27 million. The Corps continues to charge the City interest from November 1996 to present. I will be requesting WRDA02 clarify that City is not liable for the interest from November 1996 to October 1999.
Technical correction to the definition of “Indian Lands”
Because Oklahoma does not have any Indian reservations, we need to make a clarification in the law with the respect to the definition of Indian lands. I will propose that the definition of Indian lands in Oklahoma for Corps of Engineers purposes be modified to be consistent that the definition for Indian lands in the Highway program.
Transfer of Flow Easements on Grand Lake, Oklahoma to Grand River Dam Authority
I am working with both the Tulsa District Corps office and the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) to transfer Flow Easements on Grand Lake to the GRDA. Grand Lake is not a Corps lake and there is no logical reason for the Corps to be involved in the lake. Both parties are interested in seeing this transfer accomplished.
Authorization of 12-foot depth on the Arkansas River Navigation Channel
Currently the Arkansas River is authorized at 9 feet; however a majority of the system is greater than 12 feet because the natural scouring of the river. I will be proposing to make the channel a uniform 12 feet (minimum) to assist in navigation. This is an opportunity to enter into a private/public partnership because a company along the system is willing to put some of their own money into this project.
I think this could be used as a model for future projects and hope the Committee will give serious consideration to this proposal.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.