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Spring rains show need for flood control dam repair

Almost 200 Oklahoma flood control dams are in need of repair; another 1,300 dams will be past their life-span in 10 years.

Spring rains have once again emphasized the importance of Oklahoma's upstream flood control dams, many of which are in desperate need of repair, says Scotty Herriman, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.

“The sudden change from record drought to a deluge of rain this spring shows the need to maintain our flood control structures,” he says.

“Oklahoma has more flood control structures built under the USDA watershed program than any other state. Many of them were built in from the 1940s through the 1960s. With a 50-year lifespan, one can do the math and see we have a big problem. It is imperative that the state invest in repairing these structures now.”

Designed to stop the dangerous flash floods of the past, Herriman says the dams, in both rural and urban areas, have protected Oklahomans for more than 50 years from the ravages of out-of-control water, saving countless lives and billions of dollars. Now, however, the time has come to repair what he calls the state's “silent sentinels.”

“Each year the state of Oklahoma is saved over $70 million from damage that doesn't happen because these dams are in place. If we want this protection to continue, and if we want to avoid the catastrophe of a dam failure, we need to act now to repair these structures.”

Herriman says Congress has taken a major step by appropriating over $13 million for dam rehabilitation in Oklahoma. That money must be matched by the state at the rate of $1 for every $2 federal in order to be accessed by the Conservation Commission for rehabilitation. If the state doesn't match the funds this year, they will be returned to the federal treasury.

“It would be a huge mistake not to match these federal dollars.” Herriman says. “Our congressional delegation has fought hard to get these resources to address this serious problem.

“I hope our legislative leaders will do their part to insure the protection these dams have provided for the last 50 years is maintained into the future.”

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