Oklahoma Conservation Leaders Point to Missouri Levee Break As Reason to Keep Flood Control Dam Repair Efforts Moving ForwardFri, 29 Apr 2011 6:46:56 CDT
The recent breach of a levee in Missouri highlights the continued need to focus on the upkeep and repair of our flood control dams in Oklahoma and the importance of federal and state funding for this repair work according to Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
“The levee break in Missouri this week once again shows the need for adequately funding the operation, maintenance and repair of Oklahoma’s 2,100 plus flood control dams, Parker said. “Most Oklahomans fail to realize that our state has more flood control dams than any other state in the Union and that over 1,000 of these dams will be past their design life in the next five years. Without the dollars to do inspection, maintenance and repair on these structures, next time instead of Missouri it could be Oklahoma in the news.”
On Monday, a powerful storm system dumped over six inches of rain on the southeastern Missouri community of Poplar Bluff adding to a four day rain total of 15 inches. The rain from the storm system caused the Black River to break through a levee leading to the evacuations of 1,000 homes.
Floodwaters from the Black River surrounds a street sign Tuesday, April 26, 2011, in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Powerful storms that swept through the nation's midsection have pushed river levels to dangerous heights and are threatening to flood several towns in Missouri and officials now report a levee protecting Poplar Bluff from the Black River has breached.
- Jeff Roberson /AP Photo
A federal inspection had earlier given the levee a failing grade due to the lack of funding for maintenance on the structure. According to Parker, this tragedy should give Oklahoman’s a stark reminder of why the continued support by the state and federal government for upstream flood control repair is so important.
“During the recent debate over shutting down the federal government, some in Washington D.C. actually proposed doing away with federal funds for the repair of upstream flood control dams. This levee breech shows why that is a really bad idea,” Parker said. “This is an issue of public safety and it would be irresponsible for the state and federal government to turn their backs on people’s lives and property. Thankfully our leaders in the Oklahoma have understood this. We hope they continue to do so in these tight budget times.”
According to Parker it was through the efforts of Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, that funding for the rehabilitation of upstream flood control dams remained in the federal budget. Parker also credited the foresight of the Oklahoma legislature in passing the conservation bond issue in 2009 to inject record funding into the repair damage to the flood control infrastructure throughout the state. Even with these efforts, however, Parker said challenges still remain.
“We almost lost all federal help in repairing all these ageing flood dams in the fight over the federal budget this spring,” Parker said. “When you realize that it costs over $1 million on average to fix a dam in Oklahoma and when you realize that in Oklahoma alone we have over 1,000 dams that will be past their design life in the next 5 years, there is no way the state could come up with these funds by itself. At the same time, the funding that was provided by the conservation bond in 2009 is just about gone. The bottom line to all this is that if we are going to make sure that the next big news story isn’t about a levee break in Missouri but instead is about a dam break in Oklahoma we have to keep up our commitment to funding flood control structures.”
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