Tornado debris

Debris remains scattered throughout Black Gum Landing at Lake Tenkiller

Lake Tenkiller area residents say the thousands of pounds of debris from the Nov 30 tornado now constitute an environmental hazard that is becoming progressively worse.

Troy Kinion, who retired from the Air Force after 27 years, moved to Black Gum Landing to enjoy the next chapter of his life. Instead, he is appalled by the lingering mess, and he's been making phones calls to representatives.

"It's like a third world dump," said Kinion. "I moved here from Idaho and lived in Alaska, and I can tell you, this would have never gotten this bad there."

While the focus on cleanup is at Snake Creek Cove Campground and Marina, Kinion said the entire southern end of the lake is cluttered with debris.

"The Styrofoam is so broken-down, and now, with the lake level going up, it's pushed up in the trees," he said. "I've never seen a situation with this much trash."

Cathi Carr, lead ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said neither the debris itself, nor the delay in cleanup, should result in finger-pointing. The Corps simply does not have the manpower or equipment to get the job done immediately.

"There is debris all over the lake, and pinning it down to anyone is impossible," she said.

Since the recent catastrophic flooding could not be anticipated, the peak of lake season for some at Tenkiller has been put on hold while disaster relief for residents has become an extended nightmare.

District 2 U.S. Congressman Markwayne Mullin's office is working with the Corps to secure a contract to clean up the debris.

"This has been an ongoing effort since the tornados in November," said Mullin Communications Director Meredith Blanford. "The Corps has to contract the work out, since they don't have the manpower themselves."

Kinion said he was told by the Corps that there were no plans to remove the debris, and it seems that everyone wanted to place blame instead of help.

Carr said that is not the case, and the Corps is working to get a plan in place after the floodwaters recede.

"Even when the flooding goes down, we still won't have the manpower," she said.