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Inhofe Requests Nearly $14M In Earmark For Tulsa Levee Improvements

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County Commissioner Karen Keith
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With earmarks reinstated in the congressional budgeting process, Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe has requested $13.8 million to push ahead improvements for Tulsa’s levee system.

Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended up to $200 million in work on the levees. The money Inhofe requested will expedite engineering and design work for the first phase of construction.

"And hopefully, this money that we're going to get will help us get those designs done and move forward to get the work done so that we can give the people that are sitting behind this levee the best possible chance during a high-water event," said District 12 Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick.

The levees held up during 2019’s historic Arkansas River flooding thanks to around-the-clock work involving sand bags, military helicopters and the National Guard. County Commissioner Karen Keith started pushing for levee improvements years before that.

"And numbers from the Corps of Engineers indicate that we spent about $3 million just keeping the levee intact during that high-water event. That's not great use of taxpayer dollars. Let's fix it," Keith said.

At a news conference Thursday, Inhofe Chief of Staff Luke Holland was asked whether the senator had any concerns his request won’t make the cut with several Republican lawmakers going on record to oppose earmarks.

"I think at the end of the day, this is a project that has been authorized for many years and in multiple iterations. And so, there is strong congressional support for the project, and now it's just a matter of getting the dollars where they need to go and getting it off the ground and completed," Holland said.

The west Tulsa levee protects thousands of Tulsa County residents and more than $2 billion in assets.

City of Tulsa voters approved $5 million in levee repair matching funding in the latest Vision Tulsa package.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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