Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and three local mayors are asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study of the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levee System by the end of the year. The study is needed to make improvements to the levee system which held during recent flooding.
The letter, published in full below, is signed by Stitt, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Bixby Mayor Brian Guthrie and Jenks Mayor Robert Lee.
The already-planned study is currently scheduled in 2020. In 2008, the Corps rated the 75-year-old levees as "unacceptable." In their letter, the governor and mayors said this year's flooding proves that any work to rebuild or upgrade the levees simply can't wait.
Related Story: Officials Working To Shore Up Tulsa County Levees
Assistant Secretary James and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite,
Throughout the months of April and May, the state of Oklahoma underwent devastating severe weather and flooding events. As a result of these conditions, state government declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties in Oklahoma, and the Trump administration was quick to respond both in its FEMA approvals as well as on the ground support from the Corps and a visit from the Vice President of the United States. Oklahoma greatly appreciates this administration's pro-active and close coordination during the events and your ongoing support as residents undergo a long road to recovery.
We specifically want to draw your attention to the historic flooding experienced in Eastern Oklahoma. This area was fortunate that the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levee System held back water for weeks, compared to the last major flooding event in 1986 that lasted less than a day. If these 75-year-old levees had been breached, the damage would have been catastrophic to the communities of hard-working Oklahomans protected by the levee system.
The 2018 Water Resources Development Act instructed your agency to conduct a Feasibility Study on our nation's levees, for completion by September 2020. Oklahomans simply cannot wait that long. In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rated the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees as "unacceptable". Based on your own assessment, it is clear you, too, recognize the urgency for modernization and upgrades.
We are writing to request the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the Feasibility Study for completion in December 2019. This will allow for much needed upgrades to be addressed before the close of the 116th Congress. Any deadline past December runs the risk of delaying the rebuilding and recovery process several years for this vital infrastructure.
The Tulsa-West Tulsa Levees provided protection to tens of thousands of Oklahomans, spanning from as north as Skiatook to as far south as Muskogee and Webbers Falls. These levees also protected $2 billion in infrastructure and two major oil refineries, both of which provide gasoline to a large section of the mid-continental United States. The risks are too high for this not to be resolved soon, but there is a clear solution and path forward for expediting upgrades if the Corps will finalize this important report by the end of this year.
J. Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma
G.T. Bynum, Mayor of Tulsa
Brian Guthrie, Mayor of Bixby
Robert Lee, Mayor of Jenks