Path Home Shows 2012 Show Archive May 2012 Show 1221 Dam Conservation - Rebuilding our Infrastructure

Dam Conservation - Rebuilding our Infrastructure

Low water dams are environmental and an economic benefit to our state in reducing flooding during peiods of heavy rainfall and suppling water during dry spells.
Dam Conservation - Rebuilding our Infrastructure

Sugar Creek Watershed

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Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts

Show Dates

Show 1221: Dam Conservation - Rebuilding our Infrastructure

Air date: May 20, 2012

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL LOW WATER DAMS ARE AN ENVIROMENTAL AND ECONOMIC BENEFIT THAT FEW EVEN KNOW EXIST.  SCATTERED AROUND OUR STATE ARE THESE EARTHEN STRUCTURES THAT HAVE DRAMATICALLY REDUCED FLOODING PROBLEMS IN OKLAHOMA; BUT, TIME HAS TAKEN ITS TOLL.  OUR COURTENAY DEHOFF ATTENDED A CEREMONY AS WORK WAS COMPLETED LAST SUMMER ON WHAT SOME REFER TO AS SILENT SENTINALS.

COURTENAY DEHOFF:  WELL IN THE MIDST OF A RECORD BREAKING DROUGHT, IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE NOW, BUT SOMETIMES IN OKLAHOMA, WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS.  YET THANKS TO CONSERVATION EFFORTS IMPLEMENTED MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO, DAMAGE FROM SUCH FLOODING HAS BEEN LIMITED.  BUT THE DAMS THAT HOLD THE FLOOD WATERS BACK ARE AT THE END OF THEIR LIFE AND CURRENT FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS THREATEN ANY CHANCE OF REPAIRS.  IN THE HEAT OF LAST SUMMER I TRAVELED TO THE HEART OF CADDO COUNTY TO LOOK AT A NEWLY REFURBISHED DAM THAT MAY BE THE LAST ONE IN A LONG TIME.

IN THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY FLOODING WAS A MAJOR CONCERN; WITH MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF DAMAGE EACH YEAR AND HUNDREDS OF LIVES LOST.

NEWS BULLETIN:  WE INTERRUPT PROGRAMMING.  A FAMILY OF SIX IS NOW MISSING AFTER FLOOD WATERS SWEPT AWAY THEIR HOME.  POLICE SAY THEY HAD LITTLE WARNING ABOUT THE IMPENDING DOOM.

COURTENAY:  WHICH IS WHY CONGRESS PASSED A WATERSHED PROJECT IN 1944, TO BUILD SMALL UPSTREAM FLOOD CONTROL DAMNS, TRAPPING FLOOD WATER DURING HEAVY RAIN AND RELEASING IT SLOWLY OVER SEVERAL DAYS.  OKLAHOMA WAS NOT ONLY THE FIRST TO BUILD A FLOOD CONTROL DAM; BUT, WAS ALSO THE FIRST STATE TO COMPLETE A WATERSHED PROJECT.

RON JUSTICE:  THE CONSERVATION OF WATER IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

COURTENAY:  SENATOR RON JUSTICE.

JUSTICE:  IT’S HARD TO EVEN RELATE HOW MUCH THAT REALLY MEANS TO BE ABLE TO SAVE AND CONSERVE THAT WATER; BUT ASIDE FROM THAT, IT ALSO IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF PROTECTION TO ROADS AND BRIDGES AND HOUSES AND LAND DOWN, DOWNSTREAM.  AND SO, IT MEANS A LOT IN TERMS OF ECONOMIC SAFETY AND DAMAGE; BUT ALSO, LIVES OF PEOPLE, BECAUSE TO BE ABLE TO SAVE THAT AND CONSERVE THE WATER AND BE ABLE TO STORE THAT WATER IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

COURTENAY:  WORK THAT WAS SEVERLY DAMAGED IN 2007 BY A FREAK TROPICAL STORM THAT IN LESS THAN 5 HOURS, BATTERED WESTERN OKLAHOMA WITH A FOOT OF RAIN.  FLOODS RUSHED THROUGH CADDO COUNTY SCARRING THE LAND, LEAVING FARMERS AND RANCHES FIGHTING TO KEEP THEIR HEADS ABOVE WATER.

FOUR YEARS LATER AND TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF REPAIRS LATER, THE SUGAR CREEK WATERSHED IS ONCE AGAIN FUNCTIONAL.   REPRESENTATIVE PHIL RICHARDSON.

PHIL RICHARDSON:  CADDO COUNTY HAD ONE OF THE HIGHEST DISASTER RATES IN THE NATION AS A COUNTY AND UH, SO THERE’S BEEN A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DAMAGE DONE AND THIS PROJECT IS JUST STARTING TO RESTORE SOME OF THAT DAMAGE THAT WAS DONE IN THE BIG FLOOD IN AUGUST OF 2007.  SO IT’S A TREMENDOUS BOOST TO NOT ONLY THE LANDOWNERS, BUT THE ENTIRE COUNTY TOO AS FAR AS GETTING IT BACK THERE ITS UH, THIS IS ONE OF THE LEADING AGRICULTURAL COUNTIES IN THE STATE; AND IT HAD A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE, AND IT’S BEEN TAKEN CARE OF.

COURTENAY:  BUT GETTING SUCH REPAIRS TAKEN CARE OF MAY BE MUCH HARDER IN THE FUTURE.  SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE WORK DONE HERE, ROUGHLY SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS WAS FUNDED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  BUT FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS HAVE ZEROED OUT WATERSHED PROJECTS LIKE THIS AND IT COULD BE THE LAST OF ITS KIND.  CLAY POPE WITH THE OKLAHOMA CONSERVATION DISTRICT.

CLAY POPE:  WE’RE EXTREMELY CONCERNED; WHETHER IT IS UPSTREAM FLOOD CONTROL FUNDING LIKE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT TODAY.  I MEAN, WHEN YOU STOP AND THINK ABOUT IT WE HAVE OVER 1,000 DAMS THAT IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS WOULD HAVE TO BE REHABILITATED, AND A MILLION DOLLARS A DAM ON AVERAGE.

COURTENAY:  THE OKLAHOMA CONSERVATION COMMISSION FUNDED 25% OF THE PROJECT, ROUGHLY TWO MILLION DOLLARS; BUT WITH FEDERAL FUNDING DIMINISHING, THAT LEAVES 75% OF THE FUNDING STILL LACKING.

POPE:  THERE’S NO WAY THE STATE CAN PICK THAT UP ON THEIR OWN; THAT’S WHY THE USDA HAS THE 2-TO-1 MATCH THAT MR. LUCAS WAS SO INSTRUMENTAL IN GETTING PUT IN PLACE IN FEDERAL LAW.  THAT’S A MAJOR CONCERN, BUT THEN ON TOP OF THAT, YOU KNOW, HERE WE ARE IN ONE OF THE WORST DROUGHTS WE’VE EVER HAD IN THE HISTORY OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA.  IF WE DON’T HAVE THOSE RESOURCES, IF WE CONTINUE TO SEE THOSE DOLLARS SHRINK, WE WON’T BE ABLE TO DO IT.  AND, AND THE PROBLEMS THAT WE’RE SEEING TODAY ARE ONLY GONNA MAGNIFY AND WE’RE GONNA HAVE HUGE PROBLEMS THAT NOT ONLY AFFECT RURAL OKLAHOMA, BUT AFFECT THE URBAN PARTS OF THE STATE AS WELL; AND, FOLKS IN OTHER STATES OF THE UNION ALSO.  SO IT’S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT WE MAKE SURE THOSE RESOURCES ARE THERE.  WE’VE GOT TO DO OUR PART TO BALANCE THE BUDGET; BUT LET’S MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE MINDFUL, THAT WE DON’T REPEAT THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST, LIKE THE DUST BOWL.

COURTENAY:  SO FOR NOW, THESE EARTHEN THAT ARE AT TH END OF THEIR LIFE, MUST HANG ON A LITTLE LONGER; PROTECTING THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND AS LONG AS THEY CAN.

WELL PROTECTING AND FIXING THESE WATERSHED STRUCTURES IS GETTING TOUGHER.  FROM 2009 TO 2010 THE OKLAHOMA CONSERVATION BUDGET WAS REDUCED BY OVER $614,000 AND ANOTHER $300,000 IS EXPECTED TO BE CUT THIS YEAR.

ROB:  WELL WHETHER REPAIRS ON OTHER LOW WATER DAMS CAN GET UNDERWAY, WILL DEPEND GREATLY ON THE FUNDING OF THE U S FARM BILL.  HOUSE AG COMMITTEE CHAIR, FRANK LUCAS, HAS LONG BEEN A SUPPORTER OF THESE STRUCTURES, AS WELL AS, OKLAHOMA’S SENATOR JIM INHOFE WHO IS PARTNERING WITH OTHER WASHINGTON LAWMAKERS TO PUSH FOR FURTHER FUNDING FOR THESE REPAIRS.