Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Water Utilities Trust Pays Operation Fee for Sardis Lake

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OKC Water Utilities Trust Pays Operation Fee for Sardis Lake

Article excerpt

Even though the status of its Sardis Lake contract remains in limbo and has not been approved by federal officials, the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust recently paid more than $143,000 in annual maintenance and operation costs at the southeastern Oklahoma reservoir, documents obtained by The Journal Record show.

Dated Dec. 27, 2010, an invoice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers listed a fee of $143,680.18 in water storage operation and maintenance costs due for the Sardis Reservoir; that invoice - sent to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and not the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust - describes the fee as a billing for the state's portion of "O and M" (operation and maintenance) of water storage space in Sardis Lake.

A letter accompanying the invoice, written by OWRB Executive Director J.D. Strong to Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch, said the bill is for the reservoir's 2011 annual operation. In the letter, Strong asks that Oklahoma City send its payment to the OWRB and not directly to the Army Corps of Engineers.

"As you know the Storage Contract Transfer Agreement provides that the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust assumes the obligation to make annual O and M payments for Sardis Lake," Strong wrote. "As with the present use storage payment sent to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board last June, which was then forwarded to the Corps of Engineers, I assume that the O and M payment will be sent to the OWRB, preferably no later than June 18, 2011, so we can forward the same to the Corps by the due date."

On Wednesday, Strong said the OWRB was sent the bill because the Army Corps of Engineers maintains its original contract with the state and not Oklahoma City. He said the invoice was paid with funds received from the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust.

"The other contract hasn't been approved," Strong said. "So that's why they are billing us. We sent the money to the corps using the same method we did last time."

Yet while the OCWUT officials said they are obligated to pay the fee, they also acknowledged they have not sought approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the June 2010 contract.

"Oklahoma City has not asked the U.S. Corps of Engineers to approve the agreement," said Marsha Slaughter, general manager of the OCWUT. "Consistent with our understanding of the USACE's standard procedures, we anticipate asking the USACE through the OWRB for transfer following completion of a water use permit. …

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