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Agricultural News


Oklahoma Leading the Nation in Flood Control Dam Rehabilitation

Fri, 26 Aug 2022 10:04:43 CDT

Oklahoma Leading the Nation in Flood Control Dam Rehabilitation Following the Upper Elk Creek Dam 23D rededication ceremony, Associate Farm Editor, Reagan Calk, visited with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Trey Lam. Lam talks about the highlights of water-related restoration in Roger Mills and Beckham County, and conservation efforts around the state.

“We just finished construction on Elk Creek 23D, which is one of about 35 dams, specifically four that sit just above the town of Elk City and protect Elk City,” Lam said. “If those dams weren’t there or they happened to fail, there would be up to nine feet of water in many businesses and homes in Elk City and kind of flowing down through a mobile home park to the McDonalds, and also it would affect the interstate.”

The dam was a 4.3-million-dollar project, Lam said where they went in and raised the height of the dam so that it will protect people better.

“It is a federal, state and local partnership between the USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service, our agency- the Conservation Commission, and the local conservation district, which is the north fork of the red river conservation district,” Lam said. “Oklahoma has 2107 flood control dams and these not only protect homes and towns, but also farms and farmland, county roads and bridges.”

Lam said Oklahoma has more flood control dams than any other state and leads the nation in rehabilitation of those dams.

“We use the federal program to bring more of those dams up to dam safety standards,” Lam said. “We currently have a pilot project where we are repairing corrugated metal pipes which are rusting out and really threatening the integrity of the dams.”

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission has man different projects going on, Lam said that are both local and state through appropriations and funded through federal dollars.

“It is really how things should work where you have local need- the local people let us know where they have a flooding or they have a flood dam that needs to be repaired, then we go to the state and federal government to provide the expertise in engineering, the finances for construction, and we develop and put those projects on the ground,” Lam said. “We have a lot of these dams all over the state that need some work, but we have a great effort on the way to restore them.”

Lam said for flood control, it is important that people are aware of the placement of dams when deciding where to build a home. Building a home below a dam, he added, raises the hazard level of that dam.

“We just need to understand where we develop homes, housing additions and also not to do anything if you have one of these dams on your property that will effect the integrity of it,” Lam said.

Back in the 30s to the 70s, Lam said there would be a major flood along these creeks where we have these dams multiple times a year. In places where half the flood plains used to go underwater, Lam said, we rarely see that happen today.

“Yes, we do have flooding, but it is not nearly as intense as it was,” Lam said. “So, you kind of have to remember that if we don’t have this infrastructure, we are going to go back to where we were . At that time when we built these dams, they cost about 50 thousand dollars. Now, a new dam would cost 15 million dollars to build.”

Lam also talked about the renaming of Sargent Major Creek Dam to Sargent Major Frank Lucas Dam.

“Congressman Lucas went to D.C. and represented western Oklahoma in the mid-90s,” Lam said. “Agriculture and soil and water conservation were always a priority of his, so in 2000 he supported the funding for the first rehabilitation of a flood control structure and the first one rehabilitated was just outside of Cheyenne, Okla. on Sargent Major 2. To commemorate that fact, we invited him today to surprise him and we renamed Sargent Major 2, that first rehabilitation project, Sargent Major Frank Lucas Dam.”

As you travel down the highway into Cheyenne, Lam said to look off into the east and you will see the sign and the dam honoring Congressman Lucas for his years of dedication to preserving not only the safety of our soil and water in Oklahoma.

“We have several soil health events around the state,” Lam said. “If you will check out our conservation website here at the conservation commission you can see some of those. We are having a four-state meeting coming up at the end of this month and then in November we have five regional meetings for our conservation districts all around the state. We will be traveling quite a bit in the month of November to meet with our Conservation District Directors and really learn what we can do to better serve them because that is really the function of our state agency is to provide support and funding and employees to our conservation districts.”


To visit the Oklahoma Conservation Commission website, click here.

Click the LISTEN BAR below to listen to Reagan Calk and Trey Lam talk about water-related restoration and conservation in Oklahoma.

   

   

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