U.S. Commerce Department Awards Tulsa County $3 Million Grant For Levee Improvements

Apr 22, 2020

The U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday a $3 million dollar award to Tulsa County for improvements to the Arkansas River levee system.

The grant is directed through the department's Economic Development Administration, or EDA, and is intented "to improve critical infrastructure needed to protect businesses from flood damage," according to a press release from a Commerce Department spokesperson.

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said the money will help protect neighborhoods from the type of flooding devastated in last spring's storms.

"This is very, very important to us, getting it fixed," Keith said on a Tuesday livestream interview with the Tulsa Press Club. "All of those pumps failed."

The levee pump stations, Keith said, are decades-old and in desperate need of modernization.

"These pumps are 70 years old," she said. "They get tested every month, they try to keep on top of them, but as soon as they had all this water pressure, they didn't work. None of them worked."

Keith said that the Indian Nations Council of Governments, or INCOG, applied for the award on behalf of Tulsa County, and that additional help came from the office of Senator Jim Inhofe. 

The Commerce Department said that the project qualified for the money because of its status as an Opportunity Zone, a geographic designation introduced by the Trump administration meant to direct investments into "economically-distressed communities." 

The 2019 Arkansas River floods damaged at least a thousand homes and killed four people in Oklahoma, and caused an estimated $3 billion in damages across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas.