Missouri Levee Break Highlights Need for Flood Control Dams

Missouri levee break highlight’s need for state and federal dollars to fix Oklahoma’s aging flood control dams; Nearly 1,500 Oklahoma dams will be past their design life in five years.

The recent breach of a levee in Missouri highlights the continued need to focus on the upkeep and repair of our flood control dams in Oklahoma and the importance of federal and state funding for this repair work according to Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).

“The levee break in Missouri this week once again shows the need for adequately funding the operation, maintenance and repair of Oklahoma’s 2,100 plus flood control dams, Parker said. “Most Oklahomans fail to realize that our state has more flood control dams than any other state in the Union and that over 1,000 of these dams will be past their design life in the next five years. Without the dollars to do the inspection, maintenance and repair on these structures, next time instead of Missouri it could be Oklahoma in the news.”

On Monday, a powerful storm system dumped over six inches of rain on the southeastern Missouri community of Poplar Bluff adding to a four day rain total of 15 inches. The rain from the storm system caused the Black River to break through a levee leading to the evacuations of 1,000 homes.

Floodwaters from the Black River surround a street sign Tuesday, April 26, 2011, in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Powerful storms that swept through the nation’s midsection have pushed river levels to dangerous heights and are threatening to flood several towns in Missouri and officials now report a levee protecting Poplar Bluff from the Black River has breached.

A federal inspection had earlier given the levee a failing grade due to the lack of funding for maintenance on the structure. According to Parker, this tragedy should give Oklahoman’s a stark reminder of why the continued support by the state and federal government for upstream flood control repair is so important.

“During the recent debate over shutting down the federal government, some in Washington D.C. actually proposed doing away with federal funds for the repair of upstream flood control dams. This levee breech shows why that is a really bad idea,” Parker said. “This is an issue of public safety and it would be irresponsible for the state and federal government to turn their backs on people’s lives and property. Thankfully our leaders in Oklahoma have understood this. We hope they continue to do so in these tight budget times.”