Aging Dams

KWTV Channel 9’s Kirsten McIntyre interviews homeowner Barbara Kennedy, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts’ Clay Pope and Conservation Commission’s Robert Toole about the need to support rehabilitation of flood control dams. Story copyrighted by KWTV Channel 9, Oklahoma City. Used by permission.


KWTV Anchorwoman Amy McRee: “Well despite today’s flooding, there would be lots more if not for the thousands of dams all across the state. But hundreds of those dams are getting older and need to be brought up to safety standards. Kirsten McIntyre is live in El Reno at one of those dams. Kirsten.”

KWTV Reporter Kirsten McIntyre: “Amy, I’m here at El Reno Lake, one of about two hundred in the state that are actually classified as a high hazard dam, now in this case not because of how old the dam is but because of all the housing that’s been built up around it. If this dam was to fail, it could take out entire neighborhoods.”

Homeowner Barbara Kennedy: “We may need to build us an ark!” (laughs) “Or a boat of some kind. It’s ridiculous.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “Barbara Kennedy has lived in her El Reno home for thirteen years. Her house is on the back side of the dam at El Reno Lake. She’s never given it much thought until now.”

Barbara Kennedy: “Not really, until this year, since it’s been raining constantly for fourteen days.”

Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Clay Pope: “We’ve never had one break, but again, if you just let these things go, we all saw what happened in New Orleans.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “Clay Pope is with the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. He says concerns about our state dams come down to two issues: age…”

Clay Pope: “We’ve gotten into a situation now where over the next ten years, over one thousand of those dams are going to be past their life span.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “… and location.”

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Conservation Programs Director Robert Toole: “Any time just one structure is built, one residence is built down below one of these structures, it’s reclassified as a “high hazard” because there is a risk to loss of life.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “This year the state Legislature set aside six point five million dollars to begin repairing the dams. The federal government gave thirteen million for a total of nineteen and half million dollars. A good start, but far from what is needed.

Clay Pope: “When your rehabilitation jobs average a million dollars a dam, you know, you’re talking maybe eighteen to twenty dams that you can address with that even under the best of circumstances. And many of these high hazard dams cost much more than that.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “Meanwhile, for Barbara, she’s trying to see the silver lining in our gray clouds.”

Barbara Kennedy: “At least it’s not the drought like we had last year.”

Kirsten McIntyre: “Trying to be positive despite all this rain. Now I’m told construction is ready to start on these dams any day, but the problem is, Amy, in order to get work underway, this rain has got to stop.”

Amy McRee: “I know, we all need a break. All right, Kirsten. Because the dams are in place, though, it’s estimated every year the state saves about seventy million dollars in damage that doesn’t happen.