Groups eye benefits of Lake Eufaula
BY JERRY FINK World Correspondent
Sunday, December 16, 2012
12/16/12 at 4:37 AM
EUFAULA - When the Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing Eufaula Dam on the Canadian River in 1956, the two primary purposes were flood control and production of rural electrical power.
Secondary concerns were water supply and navigation.
The dam was completed in 1964 and Lake Eufaula was born, ultimately creating a reservoir with more than 600 miles of shoreline and more than 102,000 acres of water in southeastern Oklahoma.
Since then, the importance of the lake has grown beyond its original intent.
It has a great impact on - if not dominates - the economies of several counties, including McIntosh, Pittsburg, Haskell, Latimer, Muskogee and Okmulgee.
Fishermen, boaters, campers, hunters, real estate developers, environmentalists and other special interest groups have their eyes on the vast waterland - the largest reservoir within the boundaries of Oklahoma.
"There are so many balancing acts," says Nate Herring, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers in Tulsa. "Water users have as much right to the use of the water as Southwest Power (which uses it for electricity).
"We have frequent meetings, trying to balance the purposes so everyone can use the lake."
Two public meetings are coming up this week, both dealing with the recent release of the Corps of Engineers preliminary, 800-page Environmental Impact Statement concerning the use of Lake Eufaula, the first such study done in more than 10 years.
The report, which won't be in its final form until at least May, is expected to affect everyone who uses the lake.
"This is just a draft," Herring said.
But an important draft, one that focuses heavily on a revised version of the Corps' Shoreline Management Plan, which affects everyone from boat dock builders to fishermen to real estate developers.
Herring said it's important for the public to attend the meetings to express their opinions and make suggestions.
"We want to get their feedback," Herring said. "We want to know what options they prefer."
The plan focuses on five options dealing with the lake management. They range from permitting nothing to permitting everything.
"And everything in between," Herring said.
Comments that are taken at the two meetings will be addressed in the final statement, which should come out at the beginning of February.
Then there is another comment period following the final impact statement. Comments are taken on that statement through March.
Revising the plan has been on the table for more than 10 years, prompted by developers and other users making requests regarding usage of corps property.
Among those who have come to the corps for requests are at least two major developers, who stand to lose or gain millions of dollars depending on the final outcome of the report.
The biggest developer is Grant Humphreys, son of former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. Grant Humphreys is developing Carlton Landing, a 1,600-acre planned community on the shores of the lake about 15 miles southeast of the town of Eufaula.
Humphreys estimates there will be more than 2,700 homes in the community within the next 25 to 30 years.
The development requires the leasing of government land and changes in land use classifications.
Developer Bob Roberts has already constructed three communities south of Carlton Landing - Falcon Ridge, Falcon Cove and Falcon View. About 30 homes have been built in those communities and about 100 lots have been sold for future construction.
Roberts has spent $700,000 preparing a fourth community, Falcon Tree, which has 140 lots for sale.
"If I can't use the lakeshore property, it will decrease the value of the property by 50 percent," he said.
He can't sell the lots until the study is in its final form.
Roberts makes a case for developers being shown consideration by the corps.
"The property value before I developed the land was about $14,400," he said. "The current value is over $9 million."
Donald Edgar, a spokesman for the Save Our Water organization based in Eufaula, says his organization will attend the two corps meetings and then spend the Christmas holidays looking at the study in depth.
"It's an important study," he said. "It is the future of Lake Eufaula."
Col. Michael Teague, Tulsa District commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will host a "listening session" on the preliminary Environmental Impact Statement concerning the use of Lake Eufaula at 6 p.m. Monday at Eufaula High School Auditorium.
The Corps will then hold a workshop on Lake Eufaula's Shoreline Management Plan at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Eufaula Middle School's gym.
Read the study
The public has until Jan. 21 to comment on the preliminary U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Environmental Impact Statement concerning the use of Lake Eufaula. The 800-page study can be read at tulsaworld.com/eufauladraft.
Birds roost on a structure Wednesday outside Eufaula Cove in Lake Eufaula. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World