Gov. Signs Bill for Conservation Repairs

Gov. Brad Henry signed Senate Bill 1374 in a ceremony held in Tulsa on June 5. The legislation authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority to issue a bond that includes $25 million to repair damaged conservation infrastructure.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission, working with local conservation districts, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners, will use the funds for construction, repair and replacement of flood controls dams damaged in 2007 weather disasters. OCC will also be able to repair roadside erosion and restore riparian (streambank) vegetation damaged by flooding and to purchase equipment necessary to carry out the repairs.

Sens. Johnnie Crutchfield, Mike Johnson, David Myers and Tom Adelson and Reps. Ken Miller, Tad Jones, Shane Jett and Joe Dorman co-authored the bill.

“This is a historical moment in conservation history,” said OCC Executive Director Mike Thralls. “There has never been a one-time funding amount of this size for conservation in the history of Oklahoma,” he said. “But never has it been more needed to repair some of the worst weather-related damage since the Dust Bowl. The conservation infrastructure that had been painstakingly built in the 70-year history of conservation districts did its job in preventing worse damages and potential loss of life,” he said. “But it took a severe pounding in the process,” Thralls added.

Caddo County was among many areas of the state severely damaged by 2007 weather events. As the remainder of Tropical Depression Erin swept across Oklahoma on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, rainfall amounts fell in parts of Caddo County that greatly exceeded that of a 100-year frequency storm. At the time it was indicated that over eight inches of rain fell in the drainage area above Sugar Creek Dam L-44 in less than 12 hours.

Dams of this type are usually designed for 100-year frequency storms. The Sugar Creek 44 L Dam was designed to store and safely pass flood waters from a 6.5 inch rain within a 24 hour period. As a result the dam was severely damaged and will require complete rehabilitation as will other dams and spillways in the area. The funds from the bond will allow rebuilding of the dam and several others as well as repairing other conservation land treatments and restoring flood-damaged land.

Dan Lowrance, chairman of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, said the bond funds will also be used by local conservation districts to address deferred operation and maintenance needs on the state’s 2,105 upstream flood control dams. “Oklahoma is the leader in the nation’s upstream flood control program,” Lowrance said. “Governor Henry’s commitment to conservation along with that of the House and Senate leadership, has given resources to our conservation districts to repair and maintain our valuable flood control infrastructure.”