The Federal Highway Administration has agreed to release an estimated $8.5 million to be used in the buyout of some Tar Creek Superfund site residents.
The money is part of the estimated $20 million that U.S. Sen. Inhofe indicated would be redirected to the buyout from the Oklahoma Plan for Tar Creek.
The $20 million was to come from appropriations held by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Federal legislation led by Inhofe paved the way for more than $6 million in EPA funds to be released last year.
“We were very pleased to learn this week that the Federal Highway Administration will be releasing its remaining Oklahoma Plan funds to the State for use in the buyout project, and we appreciate the continued work of Senator Inhofe to secure funding for this important effort,” said J.D. Strong chief of staff for the state secretary of the environment. “Now that the approval has been secured, our partners at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will work with their Washington counterparts to expedite the transfer of this much needed funding into our coffers.”
Strong said all that remains now of the unspent Oklahoma Plan dollars is approximately $3.3 million that is in the hands of the Corps.
“The next step is to secure whatever authorization the Corps needs to release this funding to the State for buyout purposes.”
Inhofe had implemented language in the Water Resources Development Act of 2006 that would have allowed for clear transfer of the money, according to state officials.
However, the WRDA bill died just prior to the close of the 109th Congress.
The legislation would have also allowed the federal Environmental Protection Agency to look at relocation as a remedy for subsidence, according to federal legislators, and opened the doors for the agency to fund the remainder of the buyout.
Ed Keheley, a member of the Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust which is overseeing the buyout project, said today that he is pleased to see the release of funds.
“This should prevent any type of a slowdown of the buyout at this time,” Keheley said. “Hopefully, the Corpse of Engineers funding will be released in the near future.”
It is not known at this time how many residents will be afforded buyout offer with the estimated $17 million the trust is expecting to soon have in its coffers.
In the last buyout of families with children age 6 and under, home appraisals averaged $51,600, according to Keheley.
Trust members anticipate that appraisals in this phase of the buyout are going to be higher.
Keheley said he hopes that, in the very near future, more definite figures of the true cost of the planned buyout will be available.