Oklahoma Leaders Petition For Funds To Repair Levees

Friday, May 29th 2015, 6:32 pm
By: Tess Maune

As more rain falls safety concerns grow for people living along the Arkansas River.

In the mid-1980s, epic floods flushed out Sand Springs and areas of west Tulsa; now county leaders say if the levees aren't renovated it could happen again.

In terms of water level, we're a long way from the levees being breached; but with Oklahoma weather, we can never be too sure, which is why county leaders are petitioning for money to make repairs.

Friday was another day and another round of rain for Junior Allen Dobb, who lives along the Arkansas River in west Tulsa. He can see the levee from his front porch.

“I'm just out here watching it rain,” he said, “Well, it's enough of it for right now.”

Dobb's seen a lot happen in the 42 years he's lived in the area, including the flood that drowned the city of Sand Springs and parts of west Tulsa nearly 30 years ago.

“It was scary back then, knowing it could come over the levee at any time,” he said.

The water never made it over the levee there, but just a little way upstream they were breached - something that could very well happen again according to Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick.

The Levee District of Tulsa County, built in the 1940s, snakes along 20 miles of the Arkansas River.

On a sunny day, all appears well from the outside, but the clay pipes and porous relief wells buried beneath the green berms are in bad shape.

“They're 70 years old and decaying, and we know they don't function as they were originally designed to,” said Kilpatrick.

Even with the area more saturated than it's been in years, and with Keystone Dam releasing more than 200,000 gallons of water each second, Kilpatrick says there's no immediate concern of the levees breaking.

5/28/2015 Related Story: Keystone Lake Still Rising; Corps Increases Dam Outflow

“We're at, sort of, Mother Nature's mercy, if you will,” Kilpatrick said.

He said to put homes and properties in jeopardy it would take downpours - inches and inches of rain in a short span of time - like in Texas right now or in Oklahoma, 1986.

But even knowing that is not enough to scare away the locals like Dobb.

“This is my people right here,” he said.

Another factor is the amount of water released from Keystone Dam. The Corps says, right now it has no plans of increasing the amount of released water.

To repair the levees it would cost $35 million, and even that wouldn't fix all the problems.