Environmental considerations for the river tax proposal

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Last Thursday night, I was invited to a forum for the University of Tulsa's Earth Matters group. Steve Smith, who used to run an airboat on the Arkansas River, and attorney Rania Nasreddine spoke in support of the Tulsa County river sales tax, and I spoke against, as did Dan Weber, a student and member of the group.

Dan read out several passages on the nature and ecosystem of the Arkansas River from the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan and from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas River Coalition. Here are links to Dan's references, for your further reading on the issue of the proposed river projects and their impact on the creatures who live in and along the river:

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Federally Listed Threatened and Endangered Species in Oklahoma

(Threatened and endangered species that may be affected by changes to the Arkansas River include the bald eagle, the interior least tern, the piping plover, and the American burying beetle.)

The Arkansas River Coalition, which has among its goals to "[p]romote clean water and a healthy natural habitat along the river and its tributaries and [p]romote improved natural areas with a good mix of recreational space."

The Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan includes a habitat assessment in chapters 4 and 5 of the Phase II plan (note: this is a 38 MB PDF).

I've never been that interested in ecology, and have been as prone as any good right-winger to pooh-pooh the "environmentalist wackos" who hold up public works projects out of concern for some seemingly insignificant species, but I found the following quote in one of the Fish and Wildlife Service documents from Aldo Leopold. It contains a sentiment that resonates with me as a conservative and an engineer.

The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

As a social conservative and an amateur student of cities, I'd say the same is true of social conventions and the urban fabric.

UPDATE: Be sure not to miss the op-ed in Saturday's Tulsa World by Jerry Brabander, field supervisor for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who writes:

The Sept. 30 Tulsa World Opinion page contained several opinion pieces and reader responses related to the proposed plan. Questions and answers presented by World staff included information related to potential impacts to river habitat, wildlife in general, least terns, eagles and river flows.

In our view, some of the answers were inaccurate. We support an organized plan for the Arkansas River that minimizes impacts to fish and wildlife resources, but the proposed plan is largely conceptual and does not include details about how impacts would be addressed, minimized and mitigated.

For example, the potential impact on the river's habitat and wildlife has not been studied extensively. The only existing fisheries study, conducted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, indicates that the effects of low water dams (LWD) on fish could be substantial. Building new tern nesting islands (to replace the four to six tern nesting areas that would be flooded or affected) in the created lakes would not be effective, if the terns don't have adequate forage fish to eat. Similar questions exist concerning effects on nesting and foraging bald eagles.

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2 Comments

anon said:

Which reminds me of that appendectomy I had as a kid. A news release this weekend now claims it has a useful purpose in the release of certain enzymes into the dietary tract.

Might explain that CB Disorder I have today.

A river is a bit like that.

tulsa world news had to be corrected said:

On KFAQ this morning, Gwen and Chris were speaking about the correction in the Tulsa World newspaper about the low water dams and water flow. Can you put that on your blog Michael for everyone to read because Gwen said it was not published in the Tulsa World where most readers normally would scan through their paper. Tulsa World also decided to put it in the Saturday newspaper instead of making it well known to most of their readers on the Sunday morning Tulsa World newspaper headlines and main news regarding the River Tax.

They were stumbling over their words when reading the Saturday Tulsa World newspaper story to us but it was early and close to 6:30 a.m. To clarify for your readers to be really clear on what they said if we happen to have months of lack of rainfall even if the low water dams are built.....thanks....it was a story that was nicely trying to correct what the Tulsa newspaper reported wrong or where they confused their readers over the real facts again regarding this River Tax vote and what we will actually be getting if it passes and what the low water dams will not be fixing.

Chris Medlock mentioned other things too on the KFAQ radio show this morning regarding that same story and issue.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 7, 2007 8:15 PM.

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