Oklahoma’s Earthen Dams Getting Extra Attention

Monday, July 9th 2007, 8:45 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's first line of defense against flooding is getting some extra attention. Thousands of earthen dams dot the state. They collect rainwater and release it slowly, without flooding fields and towns. The News On 6’s Joshua Brakhage reports why it still may be awhile before many see much needed repairs.

"USDA figures we saved $31 million in economic loss, just because these structures are set up state wide," said Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts President Scotty Herriman.

That's what Oklahoma Conservation District President Scotty Herriman said two months ago after a five-inch rain caused creeks to swell, but a network of aging flood control dams across the state prevented major flooding. Now, flood victim Scotty Herriman couldn't be more convinced.

"Any time you get 20 to 22 inches in two days as they did 100 miles north of here in this watershed, hardly anything is going to prevent flooding, but they certainly have done their job in holding those upstream waters back somewhat," he said.

You can't tell it from Scotty's property. The water was up for four days before it finally started to recede, ruining his car, his home and his crops.

Across the street, a forest like you've never seen. Trees stripped of their leaves, and matted with hay, stuck with mud and muck from an upstream oil spill.

The water line at one flooded home in South Coffeyville is just inches from the roof. The smell of a home locked up and rotting is almost overpowering. Believe it or not, some say it could be even worse.

"Even on the Kansas side, there's watershed dams upstream that have helped hold this back," Herriman said.

The challenge now, getting in to repair dams near the end of their lives. There are 2,000 like the one near Ramona across Oklahoma. Fifty years ago, the state was building one a week. But they were only meant to last 50 years. The state and federal government has approved funds to fix dilapidated dams. Now, the same water the dams hold up is holding up crews from getting in to make repairs.

Oklahoma has $20 million to repair the state's flood control dams. There's even one in the Tulsa city limits. Herriman says it's built into a golf course, and most people think it's just a water hazard.

Watch the video: Earthen Dams In Need Of Repairs

For more flooding information, check out our STORM ZONE web page.