Oklahoma flood-control structures getting facelift

Monday, July 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHEYENNE, Okla. (AP) _ Structures that have prevented devastating floods in parts of Oklahoma for half a century will soon be getting a facelift.

Congress has authorized $10 million to rehabilitate small flood-control watersheds nationwide, including the Sandstone Creek Watershed in Roger Mills County.

Federal conservationist Larry Caldwell said the project is good news in light of the devastating floods that have inundated south Texas.

``That should be a wake-up call for all of us in Oklahoma,'' said Caldwell, a Natural Resources Conservation Service coordinator in Stillwater.

Of the 10,000 small upstream flood-control dams nationwide, 2,094 are in Oklahoma. Twenty-four dams sit inside the Sandstone Creek Watershed, which was built between 1948 and 1952.

The Sandstone Creek Watershed also is the site of the nation's first completed small upstream flood-control project.

But now those historic structures are reaching and surpassing their 50-year life design.

In Oklahoma alone, 59 dams are already past their life design. By 2015, Oklahoma will have 1,090 dams beyond their life design.

``This is a concept that was born and flourished in western Oklahoma, and has protected both property and life for the past half-century,'' said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., author of the legislation that led to the funding authorization.

``This represents all the hard work I and my predecessors in Congress have done dating back to the 1930s and up until the time the project came to fruition in the 1940s,'' Lucas said.

Renovation of the Sandstone Creek Watershed is expected to begin this fall at an estimated cost of $406,900.

``The rehabilitation of these projects has great significance,'' said federal conservationist Bill Porter, who oversees Oklahoma's watersheds.

``Back in the '30s and '40s, people couldn't even drive through Oklahoma whenever it rained because flash floods were so bad,'' Porter said.

Conservationists are collecting rehabilitation data at nine other Oklahoma watersheds.

In addition, Porter said he and his colleagues are compiling a list of aged watershed structures statewide in need of repair.

``So far, we have some 60 structures on the list,'' Porter said. ``We'd like to come up with a top 10 list.''

Engineers estimate the rehabilitated structures will have a new life design of 100 years.