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Senator: Oklahoma Stimulus Project Wasteful

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Photos show the guardrail along Lake Optima. The lake never filled to its designed capacity and is almost dry. Photos show the guardrail along Lake Optima. The lake never filled to its designed capacity and is almost dry.

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

HARDESTY, Oklahoma -- Many questions surround a planned million dollar guardrail, set to be paid for with stimulus dollars. The guardrail is supposed to replace the old one at Lake Optima in Texas County, a lake that officials say barely exists at all. The estimated price tag is $1.15 million and its part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works projects.

Guymon City Manager Ted Graham is critical of the proposal, saying the money could be better spent elsewhere. He said the lake does not have water in it and there's really nothing there in terms of recreation.

"We all feel the county could use a million dollars in a lot better places than the Optima Lake....personally, I don't think it should be done." Graham said.

Graham would rather see the money go toward fixing county roads.

United States Senator Tom Coburn also disapproves of the guardrail. In fact, he's trying to put a stop to this project. He sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about it, explaining that the lake does not exist.

The letter says, in part, "This decision sends a strong message that active, functioning Corps commitments elsewhere in Oklahoma are of lesser priority...it is difficult to comprehend the decision by your agency with respect to Optima."

John Hart, Coburn's spokesperson goes even further, saying, "This is what happens when politicians in Washington believe they know more about local projects than officials in Oklahoma. Decisions about whether to spend money on guardrails should be made by Gary Ridley, not by Congress or bureaucrats at federal agencies."

Senator Coburn is actively trying to prevent this guardrail from happening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designated 28 projects in Oklahoma as necessary under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In all, those projects will use up $83.7 million in stimulus dollars. The guardrail is one of those projects.

The Public information officer with the Corps, Gene Pawlik, explained the selection criteria concerning the guard rail. He says they picked projects based on the ability to quickly award contracts. They chose things that existed and were part of required maintenance.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend $4.6 billion on civil works projects, like the guardrail, throughout the country.

More on News9.com:

Read a letter from Sen. Tom Coburn and Sen. Jim Inhofe to United States Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant General Robert L. Antwerp

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