Sissortail Lake aerial photo-LR.jpg

By Justin Lofton

Staff Writer

LATTA — City officials answered questions regarding the proposed Scissortail Lake Tuesday evening at the Latta school auditorium.  As part of the monthly Latta school board meeting, a panel of city leaders answered questions from concerned Latta and Ada residents.

Those attending were concerned about issues including cost of the proposed lake, displacement of Latta residents, water rate concerns and tax concerns.

Todd Ray and James Treas of Rural Water District Number 8 came to hear what implications the lake would have for their district.

“I know the city of Ada needs another water source,” Ray said.  “I’m just basically interested as far as what debt is it going to put onto us as far as our lines, customers and things of that nature.  Everybody understands we’ve got to have another water source.”

Treas said he agreed that Ada needed another water source.

“This is an option — not the only option — but this is an option and we’re here to decide what effect it has to our water district,” he said.

Area resident Doug Kindred said he was concerned about the implications the lake would have on taxes that went toward the school because of displaced residents.

“They’re going to be under water,” he said.

The estimated $187 million lake would initially decrease Latta’s property taxes by $57,600 per year, Cliff Johnson, Latta superintendent, said.  He said it was also possible the lake could have a long-term positive effect on taxes that went to the school.

“The preliminary study identified 89 seperate parcels of property, most of which are residential,” Alvin Files, Ada city attorney, said.  “There were around six or so commercial (parcels) and, of that, (the study) identified 199 seperate structures.”  He said relocation assistance would be offered to displaced residents.

Files said proposed ways to deal with costs of the lake included extending the penny sales tax, increasing water rates and selling water to other communities.

Several members of the panel made it clear Ada would be incurring water costs whether or not the lake was built.  These costs would be incurred to counter-act future decreased pumping rates in the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.

“Right now we have 10,000 acres of water rights (in the Arbuckle-Simpson).  We would probably have to buy another 40,000 acres of water rights to be in the same position,” Dick Scalf, Ada vice mayor and AWRB member, said.  He said although the exact pumping rates and water rights price hasn’t been settled, it would probably cost the city in the neighborhood of $12 million.

“Even if we paid $12 million for water rights, that would be about the same as one year’s payment on Scissortail Lake,” he said.  Ada Mayor Roger Cupps said the city would also have to pay for water pipelines in the area, however.

Panel members emphasized the lake was a long way from becoming reality.

Kelly Hurt, Pontotoc County Water Resources Board chair said several alternatives to the lake have been proposed to maintain Ada’s current water usage. 

He said alternatives included fixing leaks in existing pipelines, using less water, recharging the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer with flood waters, utilizing brackish ground-water, looking at other lake-sites and tying on with the Oklahoma City pipeline.

Cupps said, despite its faults, the lake was a more reliable source of water.

“We really don’t have any control over the water that comes out of the ground or that we pump because it can be taken away from us,” he said.  “A lake, we would have control over.”

Scalf said any water supply could be challenged.

“It doesn’t make any difference what water supply you have in these times.  It can be challenged and most certainly will be,” he said.

Scalf said a further discussion of Ada’s possible water options would be held at the Pontotoc Technology Center June 14.  A time for the event has not yet been set.