The city of Enid is saving $8 million on water storage fees for the Kaw Lake pipeline project after city and state officials worked to amend provisions in a federal water resources bill.

Staff were expecting to pay $13 million to the Army Corps of Engineers to access water for its planned Kaw Lake Water Supply program, City Manager Jerald Gilbert said.

But under the newest version of the biennial U.S. Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), the Corps of Engineers will charge Enid a storage fee of roughly $5 million to access the water in the Arkansas River Water Basin it oversees.

With any new contracts at a hydropower lake within the basin, such as Kaw Lake, entered into before Dec. 31, 2022, a local government entity now will not pay more than 110% of the initial principal cost for the acre-feet being sought for the new covered contract for that lake.

Gilbert said the city under-allocated $10 million within the capital project’s budget because city staff working on the Kaw Lake project were aware longtime city of Enid military liaison Mike Cooper was working with Senate staff to update related provisions.

Budgetary-wise, the city saved $5 million, but in actuality saved around $8 million in paying the Corps’ storage fee, Gilbert said.

“I’ve got about 8 million reasons why it’s good for the project,” he said Tuesday.

The total Kaw Lake project is estimated to cost about $317 million.

“As large as that project is, anytime we can save some money on it, that’s what we want to do,” said Cooper, who recently stepped down as chairman of Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission.

Cooper had worked with staff of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to adjust cost-sharing requirements for the construction of inland waterway projects for FY 2021-FY 2027 for municipalities such as Enid.

Cooper had made Gilbert and city staff aware of the bill’s passage in December, but he was notified last week that the Corps had finalized implementation policies from the bill that would’ve resulted in the price change.

Inhofe said in a press release in December that the WRDA provides certainty in water storage pricing for Enid.

The biennial WRDA bill, which modified $10 billion in water infrastructure funding, passed in the House on Dec. 8, 2020, then in the Senate on Dec. 22 before being signed into law less then a week later by then-President Donald Trump.

Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, had signed WRDA bills into law in 2018, 2016 and 2014.

Inhofe had initially secured a provision in the 2018 version of the bill to make it affordable for municipalities such as Bartlesville to contract with the Corps.

The U.S. House’s Water Resources and Environment subcommittee on Tuesday held a hearing on the status of several of the WRDA 2020’s projects and policy reforms.

“It is critical that the Corps prioritize the immediate implementation of critical policies … to address the protection and wellbeing of our communities and environment, as well as the maintenance needs of our water resources infrastructure, both of which are so critical to our national, regional and local economies,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., said in a virtual video of the hearing Tuesday.

Construction of the pipeline project is reportedly set to start at Kaw Lake this spring once procurement bids, state permit approvals and land acquisitions are complete, project managers said last week.

The 70-mile pipeline is expected to provide the city of Enid with 10.5 million gallons of quality water a day for at least 30 years.


Article by: Alex Ewald, Enid News and Eagle  3.25.21

Photo provided