Thunderbird on the slow path to cleanup

Lake Thunderbird

Erick Payne | Investigative Reporter

NORMAN, OK – Norman has spent about $300,000 over the past year and a half on a plan to clean up the water in Lake Thunderbird, a fraction of the $1.5 million the city estimates it will spend on the project before 2020.

There have been 16 payments of varying amounts made to Olsson Associates, the engineering firm tasked with developing Thunderbird’s cleanup plans, according to invoice records dating back to September 2014 from the City of Norman.

“We budgeted a little bit more than what wound up being required,” Joe Willingham, Norman storm water engineer, said. “We’ve got a little bit of extra money there to help us with some other measures and things we might be putting in place.”

Lake Thunderbird does not meet the water quality standards established by the state of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and was labeled as “impaired” by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2010.

Olsson Associates analyzed the streams and the watershed, and created a compliance and monitoring plan that will serve as the foundation for cleanup, Reza Khakpour, senior civil engineer for Olsson Associates, said.

The plan development process has been completed, and the city has now gone out to bid for its implementation, Willingham said.

The primary focus is reducing the pollutants found in creeks and streams that flow into the lake.

“We will do that through a variety of ways — from soft to installed physical or hard elements, stream restoration, detention basins, wetland floor base and so on and so forth,” Willingham said.

There will be a noticeable change in the taste and quality of the water in the next 15 years if everything goes according to plan, Willingham said.

City employee pay for time devoted to the Thunderbird cleanup plans were not available per a public records request.

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