Upstream Flood Control Program Elimination Puts Thousands of Lives at RiskWed, 02 May 2012 13:13:41 CDT
Citizens throughout Oklahoma and other states will be put at risk if a proposal to eliminate all funding for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) upstream flood control program is allowed to stand as part of the agriculture appropriations bill currently being considered in the United States Senate according to Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).
“It’s hard to believe that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee would put thousands of Americans at risk by eliminating all funding for the upstream flood control program but that’s just what they did,” Parker said. “It’s amazing that some Senators would be so irresponsible as to take this kind of action.”
According to Parker, when the Senate Appropriations Committee reported the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill to the full Senate in late April, it contained language that would eliminate all funding for repair and rehabilitation of America’s over 11,000 upstream flood control dams. With over 2,100 dams in Oklahoma, 1,000 of which will be past their design life in the next five years, Parker said this move is especially troubling for the Sooner State.
“Without funding from the Federal Government it will be virtually impossible for Oklahoma to repair all of its aging dams,” Parker said. “On average it costs over $2 million per dam to rehabilitate them and bring them to modern engineering standards. It’s almost impossible for the individual States to bear this burden alone. By taking this action the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee basically painted a bulls-eye on every American who lives below a dam.”
Started in the 1940’s to address flooding throughout the country, the USDA upstream flood control program has resulted in the construction of over 11,000 dams nation-wide. These dams provide over $1.6 billion in monetary benefits to the United States every year. In Oklahoma alone, flood control structures save the state on average over $82 million in flood damage that does not happen because these structures are in place. In total the program represents over $15 billion in public infrastructure dedicated to protecting lives and property from the ravages of flooding. According to Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD, those same lives and property will now be put at risk unless federal funding is restored to this appropriations bill.
“The first responsibility of the government, whether local, federal or state is to protect the lives and property of its citizens; that’s why the government built these flood control dams to begin with--to protect life and property. Now, in the name of balancing the budget, we are willing to turn our back on this critical part of our public infrastructure,” Pope said. “Without the help of the Federal Government in the form of matching funds to repair these dams and without the engineering help of NRCS, most states will be unable to address the repair needs of these dams. We know we have to put our fiscal house in order and we in conservation are willing to do our part. This shouldn’t be done, however, in a manner that puts people’s lives at risk. We can only hope that the Senate will come to its senses and restore funding to this critical program.”
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