Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 17, 2013

OSRC under fire for safety alerts

Local float operators say warnings issued over Memorial Day weekend cost them $250K, and river conditions were fine.

TAHLEQUAH — Several area float operators admonished Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission Administrator Ed Fite Tuesday evening, saying safety warnings issued during the Memorial Day weekend resulted in a massive loss of revenue.

Jack Spears, owner of Arrowhead Resort, spoke to OSRC board members during the meeting. He presented a new T-shirt, touting Arrowhead’s 25th anniversary. He said the river recreation industry is a vital part of the local and state economy, through user fees and licensing paid by operators.

“We accommodate about 130,000 guests each season, which in turn pumps about $20 million into the local economy,” said Spears. “We also provide about 250 jobs to local high school and college students each season. Three things affect our business: water temperature, water levels, and the media. The erroneous report made by Ed Fite on television Memorial Day weekend killed us.”

Just prior to the holiday weekend, the area experienced several days of heavy rainfall. Fite recommended visitors not float the river at all on Thursday, and downgraded the warning for Friday through Monday, saying rafting would be appropriate.

“But the river levels that weekend were some of the best we’d ever seen,” said Spears. “The level was up at first, but dropped dramatically in less than 24 hours. The Illinois River Association [a consortium of float operators] met and OSRC Administrator Ed Fite agreed to not be a part of media information [with regard to floating safety] in the future.”

Commissioner Randy Corp asked who, if not Fite, should be the point person when it comes to water safety and floating.

“Water safety is crucial,” said Corp. “We can’t just neglect it.”

Spears said the float operators have devised rules for safety, agreeing to only float certain types of crafts under certain conditions.

Archie Peyton, owner of Peyton’s Place, has been a float operator for 46 years, and is considered by many in the business to be an authority on river conditions.

He pointed out the gauge at Tahlequah measures the level at cubic feet per second, which is the rate at which the river is flowing, instead of actual depth of the water. He also said the gauge is often wrong.

“We have a gentleman’s agreement, that we float certain boats at certain levels,” said Peyton. “I checked the Tahlequah gauge, and it was wrong.”

OSRC Chairman Riley Needham asked Peyton what sort of standard was used to establish the rules for safety.

“Forty-six years’ experience,” sad Peyton. “At 6 feet, we call off running kayaks and canoes and float rafts only. Rafts were designed for high water. As a matter of fact, we have more drownings during lower river levels than high levels.”

Peyton stressed operators assume the responsibility and liability for those who choose to float.

“When we lose a weekend like Memorial Day weekend, we can’t make it up,” said Peyton.

Spears agreed, saying not only do they care about saving lives, they can’t afford to lose equipment in flood situations.

“One of those rafts costs about $11,000,” said Spears.

Commissioner Gerald Hilsher said the board received a letter from an area couple who floated that weekend.

“They were novices, and they felt they’d been misled about the water conditions,” said Hilsher. “Don’t you think the speed of the current is as important as the height of the water?”

Hilsher said the commission would take the issue under advisement.

“We need to figure out what our role is,” said Hilsher. “If we assume no risk, then we need to put on our website to call the outfitter to inquire about water conditions. But I will say this: When someone drowns, it’s Ed Fite and the OSRC team pulling them out of the river. If we assume this role, shouldn’t we have some say about safety and floating?”

Fite said he regrets the way the holiday weekend played out.

“I don’t want to go through another Memorial Day like this one,” said Fite. “I don’t want to be on TV talking about river levels. None of us were quoted like we wanted to be. Archie is my friend. He taught me a lot and saved me from drowning once.”

Fite said several errors were made that holiday weekend and afterward. Spears complained to Fite about a logjam that needed to be removed, and Fite recommended he talk to Peyton and get back to him.

“Jack told me, ‘If there’s a drowning on the river, it’s on your shoulders,’” said Fite.

 “I put out a press release as a safety warning. I wish we’d done things differently. This situation has caused some strain and I want to prevent it in the future.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • sr-Sherman-Alexie.jpg Native wit

    Sherman Alexie Jr., self-professed “res” American Indian, dislikes casinos, mascots and Oklahoma for stealing his favorite basketball team.
    Northeastern State University welcomed the celebrated poet, writer and filmmaker to campus Wednesday, and the audience was treated to 90 minutes of witty and unblinking observation from the perspective of an American Indian all-too-familiar with life on a reservation.
    Alexie, named one of the 21st Century’s top 20 writers by The New Yorker, delivered what was essentially a standup monologue to a packed house in the auditorium of the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center. Some of Alexie’s best-known works are “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” a book of short stories, and the film “Smoke Signals.”

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • rock-jodi.jpg Woman serving time for burning baby seeks judicial review

    A Cherokee County mother sentenced to 17 years in prison for burning her 14-month-old baby with an iron is asking for a judicial review.
    Court records show Jodi Leann Rock, 21, requested a copy of her judgment and sentence, and this week filed an application for a judicial review. Copies of her request have been submitted to a judge and the District Attorney’s Office.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-SchoolCharter.jpg Concerns expressed as SB 573 awaits House vote

    With an Oklahoma Senate bill now awaiting a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, some parents are voicing concerns about the futures of rural K-8 schools in Cherokee County.
    Senate Bill 573 calls for a commission to establish charter schools throughout the state. A charter school receives taxpayer funding, but functions independently. They can be founded by an array of interests, including teachers, parents, universities and nonprofits. In Oklahoma, tribal entities can establish charter schools.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man gets suspended sentence for possession

    A 37-year-old Webbers Falls man has been given a suspended sentence on drug-possession charges.
    Dusty Kayl Skaggs was charged with endeavoring to manufacture methamphetamine earlier this year after he and 43-year-old Misty Hayes Paden, of Muskogee, were arrested during execution of a search warrant.

    April 24, 2014

  • sr-NSU-Earth-day.jpg NSU students observe Earth Day

    Students and members of the community converged on Northeastern State University’s Second Century Square on Tuesday to spend an afternoon celebrating Earth Day.
    The event featured tables sponsored by campus organizations, prizes and music by Chris Espinoza. NSU’s Earth Day theme was “Gather Here. Go Green,” and was organized by the Committee for Sustainability and the Northeastern Student Government Association (NSGA).

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: Obama Tours Gyeongbok Palace Swimmer Michael Phelps Back in Competition Raw: Obama Lays Korean War Memorial Wreath Obama Leads Naturalization Ceremony in Seoul Calif. School Bus Crash Hurts Driver, 11 Kids Country Club for Exotic Cars Little Science Behind 'Pollen Vortex' Prediction US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents
Stocks