Howell of Protest
Under federal regulations, private developers have to pay market rates to lease land bordering the 456 lakes owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But last month, Ronald Howell signed a 50-year rent-free lease on 280 along Oklahoma’s Skiatook Lake, which is owned by the corps, to build a $10 million resort, complete with marina and golf course. What gives? It seems the corps leased the land for free to a public agency (which is allowable under federal rules) and Howell subleased the land with the full approval of the corps. The Army Corps has granted some 1,300 rent-free leases to public agencies, and it says the Oklahoma situation is not newsworthy. But critics beg to differ, pointing to Howell’s role as a prominent Republican fundraiser and finance chair for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Inhofe plays a lead role in overseeing the corps, and, in fact, urged the agency to grant swift approval to the Skiatook Lake lease.