Tulsa Levee Repairs Get Formal Recommendation for Funding

Apr 24, 2020

National Guard soldiers walk Tulsa County's levee during the 2019 spring floods.
Credit County Commissioner Karen Keith

It’s been a big week for Tulsa’s levees.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite on Thursday signed a "chiefs report," recommending to Congress $150 million to $200 million in construction on the levees.

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded Tulsa County $3 million for levee pump work earlier this week.

County Commissioner Karen Keith said Semonite saw the levees for himself on a visit during last spring’s floods.

"There hasn’t been a chief’s report in 40 years for our division. So, it’s a pretty big deal," Keith said.

Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick said the system was rated "unacceptable" in 2015 and among those at highest risk in the U.S.

"And then the flood of last year that showed us our weaknesses and our strengths during that flood, it validated our fix. So, we learned a lot from the flood last year, as devastating as it was for a lot of people," Kilpatrick said.

The levee system’s aging pumps failed last year as water from increasingly large releases from Keystone Dam flowed down the Arkansas River. Without the releases, the dam could have failed, leading to more catastrophic flooding.

Keith thanked Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford for helping to fast-track the recommendation process.

The improvement plan can now go to Congress for authorization. Engineering and design work can start now with funding left over from an earlier study.