Group Questions Wisdom of Building Islands in the River Channel

The Channels has sparked even more interest in Arkansas River development — if that is possible.
One group, headed by Erin Johnson and Debi Sanditen, have launched Change the Channels, a Web site where they have listed a number of questions and concerns about the proposed $788 million project.
The pair was alerted to the project during a recent neighborhood meeting.
Both are intrigued by the proposal and praise the ingenuity.
“This is not a NIMBY issue,” Johnson said.
“It is not personal,” she said. “We do not begrudge their ideas. We simply believe in responsible river development.”
Wind and Water
The two largest issues addressed are the potential of flooding and the lack of wind power, they said.
The Channels backers propose erecting wind turbines as part of an overall plan to use renewable energy — wind, solar panels and hydroelectric power from a dam at the 23rd Street Bridge — to provide power to the islands and generate revenue.
“Our concern is for the people would live on the islands, for the people living on either bank — for everybody downstream,” Sanditen said. “There is the potential for even greater flooding than has been seen in the past.”
They point to a letter dated Sept. 21 from the Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association sent to The Channels backers — Tulsa Stakeholders Inc.
The letter from the OFMA called island creation in the middle of the Arkansas River floodway “extremely disconcerting.”
“The potential for life and property damage in the event of flooding that could be greater than the 1986 flood plus one foot is a real possibility,” the letter said. “Such a significant investment, including residential housing on the islands, creates major detriment to the health, safety, and welfare of future residents and emergency rescue personnel. Inundation of the Arkansas River from the proposed dam and release patterns downstream will have significant impacts on stormwater, environmental ecology, levees, etc. We understand from the limited presentation that these and other issues are currently under technical review.”
Tulsans were reminded of major floods in the city, including the 1986 Arkansas River flood, which forced the release of 310,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Keystone Reservoir.
That release caused a levee break on the west bank of the river in Tulsa and significant downstream flooding.
“The Channels project includes strengthening and construction of levees along the river, but from past water levels rising as high as the pedestrian bridge near 28th and Riverside Drive, how tall will the levees be in order to be effective?” Johnson asked.

Not the Least of Their Worries
Beside flooding, the other big concern is over wind — or rather, the lack of it.
According to the website for Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative, wind power assessments place Tulsa County in a Wind Power Class between 1 (poor) and 2 (marginal), giving Tulsa County the lowest ratings on a scale from 1 to 5, Johnson said.
“With these assessments, it appears that the wind power that is being suggested by The Channels project is not a practical or cost-effective solution for a clean energy source in Tulsa County,” she said. “Why does this project suggest the use of wind power in one of the lowest-rated Wind Power Class areas in Oklahoma?”
Rusty Patton, one of the original TSI members, said while the wind power is not as great in Tulsa as in western Oklahoma, what power that would be generated, could be stored and used on the island.
Their Web site is http://www.changethechannels.com.



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