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PM NewsBrief: Jan 4, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, January 4, 2023.

Turnpike Update

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority corrected Open Meeting Act violations Tuesday by re-voting on design contracts for its $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma turnpike program.

Demonstrators rallied outside before the meeting began. Last month, the Cleveland County District Court found the OTA had violated the state’s Open Meeting Act by using vague wording in agendas for two key meetings that authorized ACCESS projects. Because that ruling invalidated the votes for those construction contracts, the agency re-voted on them - approving them all unanimously.

Tuesday’s meeting also featured a rare public comment period. Here’s one of the lawyers from the Open Meeting Act case, Richard Labarthe:

"I urge you to pause, hit the pause button and allow for open and honest discourse. Let the OTA make its case why this is all necessary and let the opponents make their case. And let’s all do it in the light of day."

The ACCESS project isn’t yet out of the woods, though. Another case is working through the state Supreme Court that challenges the OTA’s legislative authorization to build some routes.

New Lake in Tulsa

Plans for a new dam on the Arkansas River in northeast Oklahoma have been announced.

The multimillion-dollar, multiyear project will create a new lake between Tulsa and Jenks. The project will include nature trail enhancements and other outdoor amenities. Once completed, both cities expect that the new lake will attract major investment in real estate and retail opportunities. The low-water dam will create a lake in the Arkansas River that will run from 71st street to 101st.

The plan has been in limbo for quite some time awaiting approval from all interested parties. Last week, the Muscogee Nation agreed to devote approximately $8.2 million, which will help fully fund the project. Voters in Tulsa and Jenks made previous major financial commitments nearly 7 years ago. Officials say the endeavor will take approximately five years to permit, design and construct.

Earliest Tornado

The earliest tornado of the year has been confirmed. Following severe storms Monday, the National Weather Service in Tulsa confirmed that a high-end EF-0 tornado touched down in Pryor, marking the earliest recorded tornado in Oklahoma. The twister damaged a few outbuildings and had a recorded wind gust of nearly 80 mph. Authorities say it was on the ground for about 5 miles.

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