Why Are There Bulldozers in the River?

Why Are There Bulldozers in the River?

Cyclists and runners passing Zink Lake in the next few weeks will be greeted by a strange sight: 3-5 bulldozers on the riverbed. What are they doing? To a casual onlooker, pushing sand. Lots of it.

For those Tulsans familiar with the history of the Arkansas River, this activity is nothing new. In fact, a very similar project was carried out in 2010. “Basically, we have a regular influx of sand that collects in Zink Lake upstream of the dam,” said one River Parks representative. “The 30-year-old design of the dam has several flaws, one of which is poor sediment pass-thru rates.” In summation, sand is piling up. For River Parks, the advantages of moving the sand are three-fold:

  • Pushing sand into higher-current areas encourages sediment to flow over Zink Dam
  • Removing “islands” of sand discourages unfavorable nesting by the Least Tern, an endangered species
  • Sporting events at Zink Lake, such as rowing, need a certain depth of water that must be maintained

The sand relocation project will take several weeks. In the meantime, the dam gates will be lowered to empty Zink Lake, which allows the bulldozers to venture out on the sandbars.