PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS PROVIDE MUCH NEEDED FUNDING
March 15, 2007
Most Americans are probably unaware that the United States Army Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor recreation – larger than both the National Park Service and the Forest Service. Unfortunately, Corps projects across the country are not getting funding for operations and maintenance of existing facilities or developing new facilities, and therefore, many Americans are not able to enjoy these public lands.
FACT: Public-private partnerships are a means of providing better and more abundant recreational opportunities. The benefits of public-private partnerships have already been realized in Oklahoma. As a result, Senator Inhofe included a provision in last year’s Senate passed WRDA bill allowing the Corps to expand the program and experiment with certain policies to see what options are available at Oklahoma’s many lakes to maximize the recreation benefits.
HISTORY OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
Just a few years ago, a national Demonstration Lake Program was introduced to discover ways to create and foster public-private partnerships in order to grow needed public recreational services on federally managed lakes. This program was the result of recommendations contained in the Scenic Lakes Commission Report, a national study group proposed and supported by both the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government. The program addressed the growing need to build these partnerships, as it recognized that the public sector (at any level of government) could not currently or prospectively afford to provide the growing recreational services that American taxpayers were demanding and deserved. The report clearly suggested that government has generally underperformed in building and maintaining these public use facilities in a sufficient and quality manner.
From that initial Demonstration Lake Program, the Corps of Engineers was allowed to select 12 of the 31 pilot federal lakes for the program. One of the lakes chosen was Skiatook Lake, the only lake selected in Oklahoma. Northeast Oklahoma very sorely needed more and better recreational activities on its lakes and the selection of Skiatook Lake, one of the state’s newest and cleanest lakes, was a critical component in building an appropriate level of recreational services for the deserving, taxpaying public.
In WRDA 2007, Senator Inhofe intends to include language that would extend this expired program to all Oklahoma Corps lakes allowing for recreational development opportunities all across the state.