Senior Writer Sally Maxwell and I had a conference call on Thursday with Kent Dunlap and Nate Herring from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concerning Lake Tenkiller and the lower Illinois River.
The men were giving us an update on the project to provide a temporary fix to the lack of water that killed many fish last fall, hurting Gore's $5 million trout-fishing related economy. The problem started when Tenkiller Dam was repaired and an over 20-year-old leak was fixed, cutting off a consistent water flow to the fish below the dam.
After the cause of the fish kill was found, it was determined that a similar amount of water could not be released from the lake because all the water was “owned” by different entities such as Sequoyah Fuels and the Southwestern Power Administration.
Dunlap said at the start of the call that the lower Illnois is an example of a larger issue – water rights. Whether it is trying to cultivate fishing, or the state of Texas wanting to buy water from Oklahoma for its growing north Dallas population, there will be more water needs than the current supply can accommodate.
Boone Pickens said a few years ago that water will be the new oil and then he promptly started working to buy water rights in Texas.
He is probably right. Our populations are growing, but we are not making more water – yet.
The solution for the lower Illnois involves Sequoyah Fuels providing water it controls and the Southwestern Power Administration spending money to create a solution. It is a great work around provided by a partnership of the entities involved.
But it’s not a permanent fix. A permanent fix would literally take an act of Congress to either reallocate the water rights to other users or raise the lake level and designate the new water to support fish in the lower Illinois.
The problem is that if Congress moves to reallocate Lake Tenkiller water that will trigger public comment and hearings to make sure that all potential water users are heard. I doubt Congress would want to designate new water for fishing without first evaluating the needs of others, who have been on a waiting list for water for years.
If Congress keeps up its current pace of solving problems, we have little hope of long term fishing. Eventually Sequoyah Fuels will need its water or it will give up their contract so someone else on the waiting list can use the water.
No one is obligated to use their share to keep fish alive.
We will continue to cover this problem. You should continue to follow it and contact Senators Inhofe and Coburn and Congressman Boren (and then whoever takes his spot in November) to let them know this problem can only be put off for so long.
Have you seen the story about the outrage that the U.S. Olympic Team's uniforms for the opening ceremony (blazers and berets) were made in China and not America? When Congress found out, they went crazy with disgust and contempt saying the U.S. Olympic committee should be “ashamed of themselves” and “embarrassed.”
Maybe they should be embarrassed, but somehow when members of Congress got up that morning, ate breakfast using plates and silverware made in China, watched a television set made in China, talked on a cell phone made in China, put on clothes made in China or some other Asian country, they were not outraged.
Both Democrats and Republicans called on the U.S. Olympic committee to not make the mistake again and guarantee to buy American-made uniforms.
While it would be nice to have Olympic uniforms made in America, I would much rather have Congress take similar quick action on pushing for American jobs that made more than a few hundred sport coats and berets. I wonder if there is even a company in America that makes berets. The last time I saw one it was on the head of a street artist in Omaha, Neb. – and he brought his from France.