Gaylon Pinc is an owner and senior environmental program manager at Program Management Group in Tulsa. Previously he was the manager of Environmental and Engineering Services for INCOG and has served as president of the Oklahoma Engineering Foundation, Tulsa Engineering Foundation and the Oklahoma Society of Professional Engineers.
1. What services does Program Management Group/PMg Native provide the Margaritaville at River Spirit Casino and Resort project?
PMg Native guides, assists and councils the owner from before design begins, through design, construction and occupancy. We represent River Spirit and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in the management of all the contributing teams such as architects, construction managers and even hospitality teams. This has been an ambitious expansion with many stakeholders. It has been our job to make sure the team is on the same page and the project is moving forward on schedule and in budget.
2. How did you become involved in the environmental issues of the project?
I’ve worked on local environmental issues for many years as an environmental engineer and have managed and helped develop the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan. That plan, like River Spirit’s expansion, included studies for water quality, hydraulics, the environment and cultural resources. Floodplain and wetlands regulations compliance were required, as well as storm water management permitting and regulatory compliance.
We worked almost two years to complete these requirements for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation before receiving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit — the green light to begin construction in the river.
3. What was required for the expansion in the river to be approved?
The first step was to define the project, the project’s goals and the potential impact to the river in tremendous detail. Plans included significant habitat improvements and beautification to the east bank of the Arkansas River in order to reclaim 13 acres of riverbed for buildable land for the casino’s expansion and hotel.
My role was coordinator, facilitator and negotiator as we took the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s project for approval before the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FEMA, Oklahoma State Historical Society, area Indian tribes and the National Resources Conservation Service. The final 404 submission consisted of hundreds of pages of supporting documents and drawings.
4. What does River Spirit Casino’s expansion into and along the river mean for Tulsa and future river development?
The development will be a destination for conventions and travelers as well as local visitors — they will enjoy a Margaritaville Casino and restaurant, large pool area, convention center, theater and 484-room resort hotel with a magnificent view of downtown Tulsa and the Arkansas River.
This will mark the first major private development on the river since the completion of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan and will encourage future river growth. The development includes wildlife enhancements and preservation, river improvements, revegetating of the bank and a new nesting island for the Interior Least Tern.
When the south Tulsa/Jenks low-water dam is in place, guests will have water taxi access to shopping, dining, entertainment and the Oklahoma Aquarium in addition to the Margaritaville at River Spirit Casino and Resort.
5. What stands out as the biggest accomplishment of this project?
The number of benefits resulting from the development is impressive. Acres of riverbank had been lost from years of abuse and erosion at this site and 13 acres have been restored to usable developable land now. Riverbanks are restored, and the Fred Creek drainage ditch that divided the property and decreased the buildable area has now been incorporated into the development. And the relocation of the river trail away from Riverside Parkway to the river bank will give Tulsans a much safer, scenic path to enjoy the river and the resort’s pool. A previously very challenged area is now a destination spot.
From the beginning we have worked to make sure the development fit into the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan. The development paves the way for the south river entertainment district including water taxi access, and at the same time meets all applicable environmental regulations.
It’s one of those rare win-win situations when stakeholders on all sides are left satisfied with the results.
Casey Smith 918-732-8106