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January 27, 2007

Funding snag solved in Tar Creek buyout

Tulsa World

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- A bureaucratic hang-up on $8.5 million that had been earmarked by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe for the federal buyout at the Tar Creek Superfund site has been resolved.
Aides to the Oklahoma Republican continue to work on a second front to make available $3.5 million more that previously was committed to the buyout.
Once that is completed, the state, which is handling the buyout, will have received all of the $19 million that Inhofe came up with in federal funds for the project.
Dr. Mark Osborn, a Miami, Okla., physician and a member of the relocation committee, said that amount should last into June.
"We are looking at trying to do 50 homes a month, maybe more if we can," he said. "We may have to pause for a couple of months until funding comes."
Osborn said the relocation committee already had received about $7 million.
He and others say they remain confident that additional money will be available to complete the buyout.
Inhofe repeatedly has vowed that the buyout will receive the necessary funding, and the senator did so again after his party lost control of Congress in November's election, which cost him the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works  
He now is that panel's ranking member.
Picher Housing Authority Director John Sparkman, who has been active on the Tar Creek issue for a number of years, said Inhofe's work on getting the earmarked money freed up for the buyout shows that he remains committed.
"I'm sure that he will come up with the rest of the money and complete the buyout," Sparkman said.
The $8.5 million was part of a massive transportation bill Inhofe helped steer through Congress in 2005.
But according to an aide to the senator, a "bit of a hang-up" with the Federal Highway Administration kept those funds from being released to the state last year.
That confusion has been resolved, he said.
Originally, the $3.5 million was in an appropriation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for remediation work at the Superfund site, but after Inhofe decided to support the buyout approach, he sought to redirect the money to that project.
An effort to include language in a water resources bill to free that money for the buyout was derailed when that measure failed to pass late last year.

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