The Assistant Secretary of the Army oversees the Army Corps of Engineers on a national level. On Wednesday he spent time with local leaders to talk about the future of the Tulsa levee system.
"There's thousands of lives at risk, and there's billions of dollars at risk," said Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick.
Assistant Secretary of the Army R.D. James spent about an hour on the ground looking at the aging levee system today along with Tulsa, Sand Springs, and county leaders. It's the first step in figuring out what repairs need to be made to avoid a catastrophe.
"That's what they're trying to do here. Is trying to enlarge this levee where the actual weight of the levee helps protect the integrity of the levee," said James.
What's called a "feasibility study" is expected to start in a few months and take two years to complete. For Christopher Whitestone who can see the levee from his home two years is a long wait.
He was here for the flood in 1986 and knows how powerful floodwater can be.
"If it happened tomorrow we're done," said Whitestone. "Since then everybody has known that this is not possibly the safest place to live."
The study will cost the federal government $3 million will take a close look at the 20-mile system which protects infrastructure, refineries and thousands of people.
"All the projects across the country are gonna be prioritized in need, life safety being the number one need. This is a good project because of the people that it protects," said James.
"If the unthinkable happened, there would be a lot of people simply washed away," said Whitestone.
The total cost to repair the system could be anywhere from 34 million to 90 million dollars. It's unclear right now how that would be funded.