Enid City Commission has authorized an August election for voters to decide on a sales tax increase to fund the Kaw Lake water pipeline project. 

If approved by voters on Aug. 23, a 3/4 percent sales tax will go into effect in January 2017.

An additional 1/4 percent sales tax will go into effect in April 2018, after a current 1/4 percent sales tax — used for capital improvements — expires in March 2018, bringing the total sales tax rate to 1 percent for the pipeline and related water facilities.

The commission also approved a resolution to establish the Kaw Lake Funding Oversight Committee during its meeting Tuesday. The committee, made up of Enid residents, will oversee the expenditure of the funds for the project.

“Tonight’s vote by the city council to authorize a public election was a truly historic event. For the past two years, the Enid city council has been working with water experts, engineers, surrounding Northwest Oklahoma communities and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to develop a long-term water strategy for Enid and Northwest Oklahoma,” said Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser, who has been involved in the project, but was out of town and unable to attend the meeting. “After all the options were considered, a pipeline from Kaw Lake to Enid has been selected as the best way to guarantee our water supply and growth for the next 50 years. Historical data shows that Kaw Lake is a remarkably stable water source that is fed from a consistent unique runoff basin, and has been predictable for many years.”

The project will include a dedicated water intake structure at Kaw Lake, a 75-mile pipeline, a booster station, fixed storage and a new water treatment plant, he said.

“This will be the single largest municipal water project ever undertaken in the state of Oklahoma,” Vanhooser said. 

Cost estimates for the project were initially $451 million, but estimates have since been reduced to about $360 million, city officials have said.

“We’re only 10 percent into that plan,” City Manager Jerald Gilbert said Monday, adding the cost estimate is based on 10 percent of the information. “So, to get further down the road, we have to borrow some money to do some more engineering, acquire storage rights, etc., and we’re probably a couple years away from construction starting. 

“We’ve got to get a couple of years down the road and get that plan past 10 percent, and the cost estimates. But, I know this oversight committee will help, and certainly the commission is committed to finding the most cost effective way to do it.”

If the financing is approved by voters, the project is expected to be completed in five to six years, Gilbert said.

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