Assessment of Recent Flood Related Damage in West OK Limited by Upstream Flood Control DamsFri, 12 Oct 2018 12:02:20 CDT
Flooding occurred throughout Western Oklahoma October 6th through 9th, 2018. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) are working to assess the damage to public and private property.
“The flooding we have experienced over the past few weeks has been significant,” said OCC Executive Director Trey Lam. “While we do not know the full extent of the damage done by these historic flooding events, we do know our upstream flood control dams have worked as designed and helped save lives and minimize potential damage.”
The Upstream Flood Control Dam Program is a unique partnership that relies on federal, state, and local involvement. The federal government, through USDA-NRCS, approves plans, determines the classification of the dam, and provides funding to build the dams. However, funding for dams requires sponsorship from a local government entity. In Oklahoma, most of those sponsorship responsibilities fall to the local conservation districts. The districts are also charged with operating and maintaining dams. The state, through the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, provides technical and financial assistance to districts to repair dams and combat issues that affects the function of the dam.
Immediately following flood events the conservation district staff and directors along with watershed technicians and NRCS District Conservationists inspect the dams to determine if there is any damage that needs to be repaired. This is a challenging tasks for districts as they inspect potentially over 100 dams in tough weather conditions. With more heavy rain in the forecast for the weekend, flood control dams will have to be reinspected. Many lakes and ponds across the state are full to capacity. Additional heavy precipitation increases the risk for significant flood damage.
“In Dewey County we sponsor 22 flood control dams,” said Dewey County Conservation District Board Director and Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) President Jimmy Emmons. “These dams not only save lives but they can protect our natural resources. By sponsoring these dams, the district is showing its commitment to partner with other organizations to protect the land. In Dewey County we had several Dam Watch alerts meaning the dams could be having issues. While they did receive a lot of rain, all of our dams preformed as intended.”
USDA-NRCS estimates that the dams across Western Oklahoma prevented an estimated $10 million in damages over the recent three day storm event. However, USDA-NRCS believes these savings could be even greater.
“There are currently 330 proposed structures that have been planned and authorized,” said USDA-NRCS State Conservationist Gary O’Neill. “But, these structures have not been constructed due to a lack of federal and local funding. Had the additional funding and flood control dams been in place, Oklahoma could have realized an additional $2.4 million dollars in benefits from flood damage prevention.”
While OCC is pleased that the flood control dams performed as intended, OCC recognizes the need for additional funding to maintain and repair existing dams and build new ones.
Lam said, “This past session we saw a real commitment from the State Legislature to provide funding for repair and rehabilitation of our flood control dams. I hope to see even greater appropriations next year so the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, with help from their federal partners at USDA-NRCS can better protect Oklahomans during flooding events.”
USDA-NRCS, OCC, and OACD recognize flood control dams help during times of flooding and torrential rain, but they also want to make producers aware that there are practices that can be adopted that proactively help prepare the land during flooding events.
“By committing to the Five Soil Health Principles like keeping the ground covered, no-till, and diversifying crops, we can prepare our soils to handle the extra moisture,” said Emmons. “My property in Dewey County can take in six inches of moisture an hour compared to the half an inch of infiltration on a Dewey County farm that uses normal practices. Not only does that allow my land to store more water for when dry periods do occur, it also cleans and filters the water that does run off my land. That means the watersheds downstream of me are cleaner than watersheds downstream of farms that use normal practices.”
“Our soil health team is ready to educate any farmer or rancher about the benefits of soil health,” said Lam. “When soil health practices are combined with other programs like the Upstream Flood Control Program, our soils and natural resources will be better protected.”
For more information on the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s network of 2,107 upstream flood control dams, click here.
Source - Oklahoma Conservation Commission
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