NRCS Chief Dave White Helps Dedicate Turkey Creek Dam No. 3

image of Dave White at Turkey Creek Dam dedication event
NRCS Chief Dave White (at podium) speaking at the Turkey Creek Dam No. 3 dedication event held in Drummond. Among those at right are Kim Farber, Garfield County CD director; Matt Gard, OCC Area I Commissioner; Trey Lam, OACD president; Dale Milacek, Garfield County CD chairman; Ron Hilliard, NRCS state conservationist; Virginia Kidd, OCC Area V Commissioner; Terry Peach, Sec. of Agriculture; and Mike Rooker, OCC Area II Commissioner.

Dave White, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service visited Oklahoma on April 19-20, 2010. On April 20 he participated in a dedication ceremony for the Turkey Creek Dam No. 3 Upstream Flood Control Dam in Garfield County near Enid — the first American Recovery and Reinvestment Act- (ARRA) funded new dam to be completed in the United States, another conservation first for Oklahoma.

“We are pleased that Chief White has come to Oklahoma to dedicate the first upstream flood control dam built with federal stimulus funds,” said Trey Lam, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. “Oklahoma has been the leader in building upstream flood control dams, having more than any other state,” Lam said. “We are also excited that stimulus funds are being directed to the repair and rehabilitation of many of our dams. It is critical that we keep our flood control infrastructure properly maintained,” he said. Oklahoma was able to access the stimulus funds through a “can do” attitude and because of “shovel ready” projects like the plan for Turkey Creek Dam No. 3, Lam said. 

In addition to Lam, Terry Peach, Oklahoma Sec. of Agriculture; Matt Gard, chairman of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission; and Dale Milacek, chairman of the Garfield County Conservation District, also spoke at the event. Ron Hilliard, NRCS state conservationist, introduced Chief White. Kim Farber, board member of the Garfield County Conservation District, emceed the event held at the fire department building in Drummond, Okla. Following luncheon a number of participants visited the dam site nearby.

In addition to new dam construction, other ARRA projects being administered by NRCS in Oklahoma include repair and rehabilitation of existing dams and a floodplain easement program. The recent signup for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) have resulted, as of March 31, in 422 participant contracts and obligated $6,815,065 for landowners and conservation practices on 488,112 acres. Additional applications were accepted on April 1. NRCS expects the program to total approximately $7.5 million in the state. CSP rewards landowners who are practicing good conservation on their land. A study by Oklahoma State University last year reported that each dollar spent on conservation in local areas can multiply as much as two-and-a-half times as it is spent and circulates through the local economy.

Other accomplishments highlighted included the importance of NRCS programs and personnel in applying conservation practices that benefit water quality improvement in the state. In February four Oklahoma streams were removed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s impaired water, or 303(d), list. In March EPA ranked Oklahoma among the top five states for improving water quality.

“NRCS plays a major role in the economic and environmental life of our state,” said Matt Gard, chairman of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “The agency, working through conservation districts and the Commission, delivered record amounts of federal conservation dollars this past year, providing important economic benefits to rural Oklahoma while having a positive impact on our environment,” he said. “The upstream flood control dams in Oklahoma save more than $70 million dollars each year in flood damages that are prevented to farmland, homes, bridges, roads and other property,” Gard said.

Chief White commended that landowners who were present for their commitment to conservation that made the construction of a new dam possible. He also emphasized the effect of conservation programs in stimulating local economies.

“Almost everything needed for the construction of Turkey Creek No. 3 was purchased locally,” White said. “With Farm Bill programs and other programs like Watershed Rehabilitation, NRCS delivered more that $100 million in technical and financial assistance in Oklahoma last year,” White said.