Conservation officials announced that thanks to the federal stimulus bill, Oklahoma is in line for $25 million to rehabilitate high-hazard earthen dams that provide flood protection across the state.
They said Oklahoma is expected to get $12.1 million of that money from the federal stimulus package, enough to create 160 to 200 jobs, mostly in rural areas.
Clay Pope, the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, said Oklahoma is in “a better position than most states” to secure stimulus funding because it will have required matching dollars.
The Legislature last year targeted $8.8 million for such dam repair as part of a $25 million bond program that provided money for flood control projects across the state. A measure to reauthorize those bonds is working its way through the Legislature.
A recent ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court set back flood control projects in the 2008 bond program, at least temporarily. The court said the plan violated the state Constitution’s single-subject rule.
Officials said the new bond law should be in place well before a Sept. 30 federal deadline for coming up with matching funds for fixing the high hazard dams.
“Oklahoma has 2,105 upstream flood control structures – more than any other state,” said Trey Lam, the president of the OACD. “We are pleased that the president and the Congress have appropriated this stimulus money to rehabilitate some of these structures.
“As our flood control infrastructure ages, we literally are in a race against time when it comes to our ability to continue protecting people and property from flooding. These funds will be put to good use.”
The federal money Oklahoma expects for dam rehabilitation is part of a $50 billion program in the stimulus plan to rebuild dams that are nearing the end of their 50-year design life. Federal funds will cover 65 percent of the rehabilitation.
Mike Thralls, the executive director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, said the stimulus speeds up funding for dam rehabilitation that eventually would be placed in farm legislation.
Officials credited Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., for his past work in getting a dam rehabilitation program in the farm bill.
The balance of the $25 million bond plan approved by Oklahoma lawmakers last year included $7.1 million to repair upstream flood control dams, many of which were damaged by widespread flooding in 2007; $4 million to address flooding issues that have plagued the city of Kingfisher; $3 million that will be used to secure an extra $42 million in federal money to repair two watersheds in Caddo County; and $2.1 million for other water conservation programs.
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