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Outdated Tulsa Levee Protecting Thousands Has Community On Edge

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The levee protects a 20 mile area from Sand Springs to west Tulsa, and a Thursday night meeting addressed concerns of what would happen if it breaks. The levee protects a 20 mile area from Sand Springs to west Tulsa, and a Thursday night meeting addressed concerns of what would happen if it breaks.
Charles Page Neighborhood Association President, Rhonda Hensley. Charles Page Neighborhood Association President, Rhonda Hensley.
The levees were built during World War Two, and now the clay pipes that help pump out water are old, broken, misaligned or gone completely. The levees were built during World War Two, and now the clay pipes that help pump out water are old, broken, misaligned or gone completely.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

A Green Country levee that protects thousands of people, and billions of dollars in infrastructure, is so outdated it has a community on edge.

The levee protects a 20 mile area from Sand Springs to west Tulsa, and a Thursday night meeting addressed concerns of what would happen if it breaks.

Tulsa County leaders said the levees are in such bad shape the area is working off borrowed time.

“The levee is one block out the back door,” said Charles Page Neighborhood Association President, Rhonda Hensley.

The rain is coming down outside Grace United Methodist Church.

It's not enough to flood the neighborhood, but there's always that thought in the back of Rhonda Hensley's mind.

“My biggest fear is that dam down there breaking and the water getting down here to us,” said Hensley.

Hensley has lived in west Tulsa her entire life and she lived through the epic floods that flushed through her neighborhood 30 years ago.

She was asked to evacuate, but never left.

“Listening to these gentleman that are talking and giving us the information, I would have got out immediately,” Hensley said. “There's no way you could get out if the water is coming up that fast.”

The meeting Thursday night helped residents, like Hensley, understand the seriousness of living in that flood plain.

“There's a lot of work to be done,” said Todd Kilpatrick, Tulsa County Levee Commissioner.

He said the levees were built during World War Two, and now the clay pipes that help pump out water are old, broken, misaligned or gone completely.

It's a system that protects more than $2 billion worth of infrastructure, including homes, businesses and refineries.

Tulsa County Commissioner, Karen Keith, said, “The cost of fixing it is so much less than allowing it to deteriorate and having that impact, it's easy to see that we need to invest.”

Keith said it’s going to cost at least $26 million to rebuild the levees.

“As we work with the corps, trying to figure out how to bring these levees back to life, those numbers could change and it could be higher, don't expect it to be lower,” said Keith.

County leaders know what needs to be done to repair the levees, but they don't know where the money will come to make those changes.

Keith said she's hoping and trying for federal support.

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