Ribbon Cutting held at Crowder Lake, Cobb Creek Watershed Site One

Two-year dam rehabilitation complete.

Submitted by Kristi Hill, Deer Creek Conservation District

Deer Creek Conservation District and Southwestern Oklahoma State University hosted local and state officials at a ribbon-cutting for Cobb Creek Site 1 (Crowder Lake) on July 2, 1012, to officially re-open the facility for all activities. It marks the completion of an approximately two-year, $4.2 million flood control structure rehabilitation project. DCCD and SWOSU are co-sponsors of the project.

image of DCCD directors cutting the ribbon
Randy Beutler, SWOSU president (yellow shirt, holding scissors), and (immediately to the right) Glen Dickey, Bertha Miller and Alveta Taylor, DCCD directors, help cut the ribbon held in the center by state Rep. Harold Wright (green shirt). Also in the photo are Ben Pollard, Oklahoma Conservation Commission assistant director; Ron Hilliard, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist; and Garrett King, field representative for U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas.

Cobb Creek Site 1 was constructed for flood control in 1958 by the Deer Creek Conservation District with assistance of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program. The dam was originally designed as a low-hazard dam and constructed to protect rural agricultural land from flooding. Because of later development downstream, the dam was reclassified as high hazard in 2006. The dam was rehabilitated to bring it up to current dam safety criteria and extend its life for another 100 years. Rehabilitation included raising the height of the dam, replacing the principal spillway and widening the auxiliary spillway.

Members of the Deer Creek Conservation District (DCCD) board of directors
Members of the Deer Creek Conservation District (DCCD) board of directors Glen Dickey, Bertha Miller and Alveta Taylor attended the Caddo Creek Watershed Site 1 (Crowder Lake) ribbon cutting ceremony, as did DCCD staff members Christine Harper and Kristi Hill. Ben Pollard, Oklahoma Conservation Commission assistant director; Ron Hilliard, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist; and Clay Pope, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts executive director; also attended. From left are Clay Pope, Glen Dickey, Bertha Miller (front), Kristi Hill (back), Alveta Taylor, Ron Hilliard, Christine Harper, and Ben Pollard.

Flooding occurred frequently in the watershed before the watershed project was implemented. From 1923 to 1942 there were 13 flood where water covered more than one-half of the watershed flood plain and 67 smaller floods.

In 1983 the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department created a state park around the lake and it became known as Crowder Lake State Park. In 1997 SWOSU took over management of the park and in 2003 the OTRD transferred the lake to SWOSU and it became known as Crowder Lake University Park. Southwestern utilizes the lake in conducting courses such as a ropes course, wilderness first aid, sailing, canoeing, hiking and climbing. What started out as a single-purpose flood control dam has been turned into a great location for college students to learn skills outside the classroom, a recreational area for the university and area citizens, and a lake with enhanced fish and wildlife habitat areas.

image of auxiliary spillway
In the rehabilitation construction, the auxiliary spillway was reduced from 700 feet wide to 300 feet, but roller-compacted concrete replaced the earthen spillway.

Oklahoma leads the nation with a total of 2,105 upstream flood control dams located in 121 watersheds across 64 counties. Collectively, these dams comprise a $2 billion infrastructure that provides multiple benefits to Oklahomans. It is estimated the dams and established conservation practices in the watersheds provide about $74 million in benefits annually by providing flood and erosion control, water for livestock and irrigation, wildlife habitat, recreational areas and flood protection to more than two million acres of agricultural land in downstream flood plains.

The infrastructure also protects 1,532 county and high bridges, prevents floods on 20,541 farms and ranches, traps 9.2 million tons of sediment annually and has created or enhanced 44,399 acres of wetlands. By 2015 more than half of Oklahoma’s dams will have reached or exceeded their designed life span.

Deer Creek Conservation District has three watersheds in its boundaries. Rehabilitation on Cobb Creek Site 2 was completed at the end of 2008 and Cobb Creek Site 3 is currently on the design priority list awaiting funding.