Cheyenne, OK – Last week, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur, State Representative Todd Russ, and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Resources Conservation Service Oklahoma State Conservation Engineer Chris Stoner to tour the Upper Elk Creek Site 23D rehabilitation project.
Oklahoma is home to 2,107 upstream flood control dams- the most of any state in the nation. Providing an estimated $96 million in benefits each year, dams and accompanying conservation practices provide flood and erosion control to over two million acres of agricultural land in downstream flood plains, sources of water for livestock and irrigation and habitats for wildlife, and municipal and rural water supplies and recreation areas for local communities.
During the tour, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03), a longtime champion of the upstream flood control programs, said, “In conservation these are the good old days; all we have to do is continue to work together and there will be benefits for generations to come. Am I proud of what we have done together? You bet. Thank you to each of you for doing what you do and thank you for helping me do what I do. Together we are going to make such a difference that the people downstream will never know it happened. That’s the ultimate compliment when things work so well that people don’t even know what you’ve done.”
Trey Lam, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, said, “Today’s gathering captured a true picture of what created and has maintained the small watershed program for nearly 80 years. The dedicated and visionary North Fork of the Red River Conservation District Board hosted Elk City officials, a Conservation Commissioner and staff, along with Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and State Representative Todd Russ, USDA-NRCS engineers and staff. We were also very honored to have Congressman Frank Lucas and his field staff join us. The Watershed Program works best as a partnership of local, state and federal entities with a common goal of preventing devastating flooding while putting conservation on the ground in the watershed. The 2,107 flood control structures in Oklahoma would never have been built without such a strong partnership. All the partners are just as dedicated to maintaining the level of flood protection today and for the next 100 years.”
Although Site 23D is functioning as originally planned and providing downstream flood damage prevention, this rehabilitation means that in the future, Site 23D will reduce the potential of a dam breach and subsequent potential damage to downstream properties and infrastructure and will reduce the risk of loss of life. Additionally, the rehabilitation of site 23D allows for the service life of the dam to be extended for at least a century.
Chris Stoner, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Oklahoma State Conservation Engineer, said, “It was great to see the support from all different levels today with city, county, state and federal officials all in attendance. It was good for everyone to see a job that is under construction to show the scale and complexities of these rehabilitation projects.”
In 2000, Lucas’ Small Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments were signed into law providing critical investments to help rehabilitate watershed dams in need of repair. Provided by the Small Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments, more than $900 million has been appropriated for rehabilitating aging dams.
Read about watershed dam rehabilitation in the Oklahoma Farm Report here.
Find out more about the rehabilitation project from the Oklahoma Conservation Commission here.