More than 80 business and community leaders carried the region’s call for levee repairs, waterway infrastructure and flood relief to Capitol Hill as part of the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s OneVoice Washington D.C. Fly-In last week.
The timing of the fly-in carried significant influence as federal officials discussed ongoing flood relief in the wake of historic flooding along the Arkansas River and in northeast Oklahoma.
In addition to meeting with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, trip attendees met with James C. Dalton, the director of civil works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Dalton leads, manages and directs the policy development, programming, planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance activities of the Army Civil Works Program, a $6 billion annual program of water and related land resources.
Dalton announced he will reevaluate the Tulsa area’s $158 million in backlogged projects, particularly the west Tulsa levee, which he said will likely move forward as a higher priority. To put the Army Corps priority list into perspective, the agency has nearly $100 billion in unfunded construction backlogs across the nation, Dalton said.
“Mr. Dalton addressed our concerns with careful consideration for Oklahoma’s flooding and candidness regarding his agency’s own need for funding,” said Elizabeth Osburn, senior vice president of government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “Mr. Dalton and our elected officials from Oklahoma were attentive due to recent events and gave us a chance to make the case anew for these vital needs.”
Another highlight was a conversation with Rep. Markwayne Mullin, whose district contained some of the worst flooding in Oklahoma. Mullin discussed his work connecting state leaders to federal officials as flood waters rose. Mullin said he and others identified previously unknown hurdles that slowed reaction time between agencies. He also promised to clear those obstacles to speed coordination in the future.