Oklahoma’s Grand River Dam Authority Faces Flooding Lawsuit

December 18, 2008

A class-action lawsuit filed against the Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma claims the state-owned utility should pay for flood damage suffered by almost 400 Ottawa County residents since May 2007.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 26, and most of its claims stem from flooding in the area in July 2007 that resulted in $30 million to $40 million in property damage in the town of Miami and other areas of the county.

It is similar to a lawsuit filed against the GRDA in the early 1990s, which has been resolved during the past year. In that case, more than 100 Ottawa County property owners alleged that the operation of Pensacola Dam by the authority caused flood damage to their property.

The attorney for the landowners in the most recent lawsuit, Larry Bork, acknowledged the similarities between the cases. He also served as the plaintiffs’ attorney in the earlier case.

“It’s already been determined that the GRDA, by its operation of Pensacola Dam, causes a backwater effect that causes additional duration and elevation of floodwaters,” Bork said.

The GRDA maintains it is not responsible for flooding because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assumes control of Pensacola Dam, which impounds Grand Lake, in high-water situations. Releases have to be coordinated with other reservoirs in northeastern Oklahoma, including Kerr Dam and Fort Gibson Dam on the Grand River below Pensacola.

Justin Alberty, a spokesman for the authority, said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

The dispute between northeastern Oklahoma land owners and the GRDA, an independent state agency licensed to operate three hydroelectric dams on the Grand River, goes back nearly 70 years to the building of Pensacola Dam and formation of Grand Lake.

Courts have ruled in the past that the GRDA has contributed to upstream flooding in Ottawa County by maintaining lake levels that result in backups in the Neosho, Spring and Grand rivers during heavy rains.

Information from: Tulsa World, www.tulsaworld.com

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.