Sugar Creek L-43 Rehabilitation Groundbreaking

Conservation Partnership breaks ground on first dam repair using state bond and federal stimulus funds

The damage caused to the Oklahoma conservation infrastructure by the record flooding of 2007 came one step closer to being repaired with the groundbreaking on Thursday, Dec. 10, for the state’s first flood control dam repair project funded in part by dollars from the Oklahoma Conservation Bond. The funds from the bond will also be matched with additional dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the federal stimulus plan.

Among those attending the groundbreaking ceremony were, from left, Trey Lam, Oklahoma Association Conservation Districts president; Jamey Wood, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service assistant state conservationist; Wayne Spies, West Caddo Conservation District chairman; state Sen. Ron Justice; Carlos Squires, Caddo County commissioner; and Mike Thralls, OCC executive director.

The bond, passed by the Oklahoma legislature in 2009, appropriated $25 million for conservation work to repair damage caused to the state’s conservation infrastructure by the weather events of 2007. Of the funds, over $15 million is dedicated to repair and operation and maintenance of upstream flood control dams. In addition, over $14 million was provided to Oklahoma for dam rehabilitation under the federal stimulus plan. According to Trey Lam, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD), the combined investment by the state and federal governments will help not only repair damage today, but also ensure future flood protection as well.

“The dam repair project we are breaking ground on today signifies another step in what promises to be a huge investment in the conservation infrastructure of Oklahoma,” Lam said. “The dollars made available by the state conservation bond combined with funds from the stimulus package will help us repair the damage caused by the record rains of 2007 and make sure that the flood protection we have all enjoyed for the last 50 years is maintained for future generations. Each year the upstream flood control dams of Oklahoma save the state at least $70 million in damage that does not happen because they are in place on the ground. Repair projects like the one we are breaking ground on today will make sure that protection continues for years to come.”

Located near the city of Fort Cobb, the dam, designated as Sugar Creek L-43, is one of 51 dams in the nearly 190,000-acre Sugar Creek Watershed. The dam was constructed in 1970 by the West Caddo Conservation District with assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The West Caddo Conservation District is the local sponsor of the project and is responsible for operation and maintenance of the dam. Classified as a high-hazard dam, a failure of this structure would result in damage to homes and roads downstream, causing possible loss of life and significant damage to private property.

In August 2007 the area around the dam received over 8.3 inches of rainfall in a six-hour period, severely damaging the dam’s auxiliary spillway. According to NRCS engineers, failure of this dam is likely if another large storm occurs. To prevent this from happening, the top of the dam will be raised more than four feet and a new principal spillway will be installed. The work will result in a lake that will have a permanent pool of water covering 30 acres during normal periods and 122 acres at flood stage.

Bids were opened for the project in November. The work will be done by Southern Rock Equipment Company of Davis, Okla. The contract is for $1,625,586 with 65 percent, or $1,056,631, provided by federal stimulus funds and 35 percent, or $568,955, by funds from the state’s conservation bond. Work is scheduled to be completed in 360 days.

“This is a critical project for our conservation district,” Wayne Spies, chairman of the West Caddo Conservation District board of directors, said. “It is important that we get the dam and spillway back in working order and maintain the flood protection benefits the dam provides,” he said.

Ron Hilliard, NRCS state conservationist, complimented the local conservation district and the state for being ready to get the job done.

“By having matching funds available for watershed rehabilitation from the conservation bond, we have been able to secure these federal stimulus funds for this needed project, Hilliard said.”

According to Mike Thralls, Oklahoma Conservation Commission executive director, this project shows the leadership that Oklahoma’s elected state officials and the federal government have shown in the area of flood control.

“This work we are starting today is a real testament to the Oklahoma Legislature, the Governor and the folks in Washington who made these funds possible through the state conservation bond and the stimulus act,” Thralls said. “We are excited to be able to ensure the flood protection this structure and others like it provide to the citizens of Oklahoma. That’s something we couldn’t do without these funds.”