OKLAHOMA CITY - Legislation allowing the Grand River Dam Authority to lease an indefinite amount of public shoreline for any length of time passed the state House and Senate last week.

Previously, House Bill 1034 granted GRDA the option of leasing up to one-quarter mile of public shoreline for a period of two years.

The language of a recent amendment to the bill reads “the district may lease shorelands for a term longer than two years and more than one-fourth mile of lake front may be leased to any one person, firm or corporation without regard to the limitations herein, if the board, by the affirmative vote of the majority of the members, determines that the lease is necessary or beneficial to the business of the district.”

The bill, co-authored by state Rep. Doug Cox, state Rep. Chuck Hoskins and state Sen. Charles Wyrick, passed the House on May 17 and the Senate on May 18.

The legislative change has drawn criticism from a lake-area property owner who believes the shoreline change is a “pay back” issued from a legislator to a list of campaign contributors who will benefit from the expanded rules.

The legislator, Cox, said the statute change is all about economic development.

Economic Development

Cox maintains the bill was designed to allow easier financing of economic development projects, such as the Branson Landing-type project proposed by Grove developer Jack Forrest. Most banks require leases to be at least as long as the term of a mortgage, according to Cox.

The bill also enables private property to be sold where a sale was prevented because the property encroached on GRDA land. That is the case with Lakeside Restaurant in Grove, a Honey Creek establishment tied up in foreclosure proceedings for many years.

Campaign Contributions

Part-time Grand Lake resident Mike Brady blasted the bill last week, saying it is merely a way for Cox to pay back at least two major political contributors who personally have “serious encroachment issues on public lands.”

Brady confirmed that, until running out of funding, he'd previously brought legal actions against GRDA board member Terry Frost, owner of Cherokee Yacht Club, and Joe Harwood, owner of Arrowhead marina, over encroachments on GRDA lands.

Harwood, a 2004 contributor of $6,500 to Cox's election campaign, built a wall on GRDA land and, according to Brady, submitted altered documents into the court records showing the structure built on his own land.

Brady, in turn, entered documents that had previously been filed with the Delaware County court clerk that he said showes the wall on GRDA property.

The Grove architect that drafted the plans for Harwood changing the position of the wall, Rick Rose, was also a Cox campaign contributor.

Frost, a $6,500 contributor to Cox's campaign and also a GRDA board member, will now be able to lease the lands long term, as will Harwood.

Cox staunchly denies any correlation between campaign contributions and his motives for authoring the bill.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature, the governor's press secretary confirmed.

Campaign contribution sources were taken from Followthemoney.org