Orange cones will soon be reappearing across Osage County highways.
By a 6-1 count, the Osage Minerals Council voted at its April 17 meeting to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation regarding sandy soil leases for road construction projects across Osage County.
Back in November, the council voted to refer the MOU to the Osage Nation Office of the Attorney General for review for approval, prompting ODOT to implement a freeze on Osage County road construction projects.
As written, ODOT would pay a one-time $500 royalty fee for each excavation project, regardless of the site’s size, plus 10 percent of material costs for in-place mining.
“I read this the first time and didn’t have any heartburn,” said Second Chair Andrew Yates. “It’s holding up some highway projects. Osages and everyone else use these highways. It’s not only for inter-state commerce, but oil and gas production, too. We’ve got oil rigs going up and down these highways. We need to move this along.”
Councilor Paul Revard was absent from the vote. Councilor Margo Gray cast the lone no vote, citing a desire to see more concrete numbers regarding the in-place mining aspect.
“They’ve failed to show up several times and not negotiate with us on these amounts,” she said. “If they could show what this project netted for us, that would be an easier way to go.”
In addition to holding up road construction, the missing MOU was also having an impact on another Osage Nation project.
At an April 15 emergency meeting of the Osage LLC’s board of directors, Candy Thomas, the Osage Nation’s director of self-governance programs, said the nation would have to look for alternative routes for broadband cables to the Grayhorse and Bowring communities due to that county-wide hold on road projects.
Pending completion of environmental and cultural surveys, the nation originally planned to lay the lines along ODOT’s right of way as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In other business, this year’s Osage Oil and Gas Summit will be earlier than its predecessors. With Osage Casino Tulsa unavailable for the council’s originally preferred December date, the council approved scheduling the 2019 summit for Nov. 13-14.
Additionally, the council approved donating $5,000 to the Drumkeepers for Grayhorse, Hominy and Pawhuska in preparation for the 2019 Inlonshka dances.
“This is what keeps us culturally grounded,” Gray said.