Jul 03, 2019

Oklahoma Flood Control Structures Require Funding

Oklahoma dams are exceeding their expected design life

Oklahoma dams are exceeding their expected design life

Dams in Oklahoma are nearing the end of their expected design life but more funding could help extend its use. According to High Plains Public Radio (HPPR), there are more than 4,700 dams in the state and around 30% are exceeding their 50-year lifespan. 

According to the National Inventory of Dams, the average age of the state’s dams is 53 years. The oldest Oklahoma dam was built in 1948. 

To maintain these structures, one resident think funding will help maintain the dams. Anita Kaufman manages 34 Payne County flood control structures and believes money is vital to maintaining the dams.

“If we start losing funding and we can’t do any maintenance or operation on them, I believe they will start to fail. To lose a dam is a potential loss of life,” Kaufman said.

About 93% of Oklahoma residents live within 20 miles of a dam, according to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. According to HPPR, Oklahoma has the largest number of watershed dams in the U.S.

Many Oklahoma dams were built as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Watershed Program, according to HPPR. Some dams also are managed by other agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and local homeowner’s associations. 

Some areas in Oklahoma received 13 to 26 in. of rain in May 2019. The rainfall was reportedly “record-setting,” according to State Climatologist Gary McManus.

“We calculated about $16.5 million dollars worth of damages would have occurred had the dams in north central Oklahoma not existed,” Caldwell told HPPR.