SAND SPRINGS, Oklahoma - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just released a draft of their levee feasibility study analyzing the levees in West Tulsa to see if there are any changes that need to be made moving forward.

Usually it takes three years to complete a study like this, but because so many eyes were on Oklahoma during the spring, the Corps finished it very quickly. 

Because there was a lot of pressure on the levees for an extended period of time, the Corps wants to see if there’s a way to build a more resilient levee system, and make changes to the current levee system, so we don’t see damage like we saw this spring.

“I thought - not again,” said Naomi Jones, remember the spring flooding.

Jones has lived in her Sand Springs home for more than 50 years and is now helping her family rebuild their home for a second time.

The water didn’t get as high as it did in 1986, but the process now is much more difficult. She says they were able to get more items out of their home than they did back then.

“We did better this time as far as that goes, but then the water stayed for like ten days and it ruined everything that was left,” said Jones.

The Army Corps of Engineers was in the process of doing a feasibility study when the flood hit. The draft plan will be available for public comment for 33 days.

"By releasing the draft report ahead of the budget process for the next fiscal year, we can continue to stay ahead of schedule for modernizing and upgrading the levees," said Senator James Inhofe.

"The opportunity for public comment is especially important given the terrible flooding Oklahoma experienced earlier this year. The draft report outlines the costs and resources necessary to protect the people and property of Tulsa-area communities so we can budget appropriately during the next federal budget cycle.

"I appreciate the continuous engagement by our state and local partners who are committed to working with us to make sure the Tulsa levees are modernized and will continue to protect homes, businesses and infrastructure, as they have for the past 70 years."

Officials say the levees were assessed back in 2016 and were determined to be at high risk.

The Corps went through several different options, even considering buying out some of the houses behind the levees, but ultimately decided reconstructing the levees would be best.

Right now their tentative plan includes:

  • 13 miles of a filtered berm with toe drain
  • 2,000 feet of cut off wall in Levee A at the Superfund site
  • Filtered floodway structure
  • Two detention ponds at Levee B tieback
  • 3,000 feet of impervious blanket armoring on landside at overtopping location in Levee B, and
  • Reconstruction of pump station 1 through 7 for system-wide effectiveness and completeness
  • Implementation of any required environmental compensatory mitigation and associated monitoring and mitigation area adaptive management plan, when applicable and appropriate. Mitigation activities and monitoring and adaptive management will be completed by the managing parties of the mitigation and conservations banks. Mitigation plans are included in Appendix E6
  • Conduct bald eagle surveys during PED, develop impact avoidance and minimization plan, obtain take permit, if necessary, all prior to any construction activities.

Project Manager Bryan Taylor said they want to make the levees more resilient so that water can’t get through.

This, however, is not their final plan. They must get public feedback on the plan before they can move forward. This process could take several months or even years to complete.

Jones says she and her family couldn’t bring themselves to move away because they’ve built so many memories inside their house. But many of her neighbors are already gone.

“I took my chances; hopefully it won’t happen again,” said Jones.

The Corps plans to have public meetings where they can get feedback on this study.

"We are so pleased that the project is right on schedule and that we are progressing as quickly as possible to begin improving the levee system,” said Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners Chair, Karen Keith. “We encourage the public to review the document, attend the public meeting, and provide their comments.”

“This is a great next step to reduce the risk for the community that sits behind the levee,” said Todd Kilpatrick, District 12 Levee Commissioner.

“We are one step closer to shovels in the ground and implementing this work. It’s a great plan—one we have to make sure is implemented.”

Open House Meeting For Comments

An open house style public information meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Case Community Center, 1050 W Wekiwa Road, Sand Springs, Oklahoma 74063 on October 8, 2019.

Please address any comments to Dr. David Gade, Environmental Branch, Regional Planning and Environmental Center, by mail at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2488 East 81st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74137-4290 or by email at TWT-Levees@usace.army.mil

Written comments may also be submitted at the public meeting.

This study was 100% federally funded, but the actual construction process will be a cost share with the county. The Corps says the federal government will pay 65%, while counties, cities or local government entities will pay 35%.

We have the report below, or you can read it here.