Collinsville Sod Farmer Fighting Against Erosion After Recent Rains

Wednesday, June 24th 2015, 6:55 pm
By: Tess Maune

The rain has stopped, but its impacts will be felt for quite some time.

The Oologah Lake spillway is letting out 127,000 gallons of water from the lake each second; that's enough to fill about ten backyard pools every second; and all that water is pushing one sod farmer's property into the river.

A crack in Brown Farms Sod Owner, Allen Brown's land is a perfect example of a piece that's about the fall into the river.

In fact, a curve in the water was all land just a few weeks ago, and Brown fears it's only going to get worse.

River bottoms are prime property for sod farmers - the soil is deep and the water is always close by.

“Those two things are necessary to produce sod,” Brown said.

He's been a farmer most of his life, putting the focus solely on sod 20 years ago.

“There's about 400 acres in production,” he said.

But right now Brown said almost half of that acreage, half of Brown's income, is at risk.

“We've lost 15 feet in the last ten to 14 days,” he said.

The current is coming from Oologah's spillway. The water has created a new channel leading into the Verdigris River, putting rapids in what would normally be pasture land, and also creating a severe erosion problem on Brown's property.

“It's just kind of sickening to just watch stuff just run away, especially when you know it's a loss and it's never coming back,” he said.

In all, Brown said he's lost about eight acres to erosion. That may not seem like much, but with just a few more feet, he said the irrigation system could fall into the river when it starts to spin.

“The natural flow of a flood would have never taken my property out. The Corps' diversion of a flood is what caused the problem,” he said.

Brown said for 30 years he's asked the Army Corps of Engineers for help fixing the issue, but said nothing has ever been done.

“The dams do a lot of good, a tremendous amount of good. We'd be flooding all the time if it wasn't for the dams; I just want to fix one of the problems the dam has caused, or the unnatural release has caused, Brown said. “We're not asking for money back for the property, we're just asking to stop the erosion.”

So for now, Brown's taking matters into his own hands and armoring his land from erosion.

“You do whatcha gotta do,” he said.

Brown is paying a company $30,000 to dump truckloads of rock into the river.

“We just can't take any more. We've lost all we can afford to lose,” he said.

The Chief Operating Officer with the Army Corps of Engineers' Tulsa District said there are plans to send someone to look at the erosion to see what, if anything, can be done, but he said that won't be able to happen until the water goes down.