Oklahoma City-The heavy rains that hit our state on September 10 through the 13th have once again shown the importance of Oklahoma’s 2000 plus upstream flood control dams, said Scotty Herriman, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts. Without this flood control protection system Herriman said over $2 million in additional flood damage would have taken place in our state.

“This huge rain event again shows the benefit our state receives every year from our flood control structures,” Herriman said. “Oklahoma has more flood control dams built under the USDA watershed program than any other state in the union, dams that according to economists at the Natural Resources Conservation Service provided an additional 2 million in savings during these last storm events. Once again our flood control system has proven its worth.”

Designed to stop the dangerous flash floods, Herriman said that these dams, in both rural and urban settings, have for over 50 years protected Oklahomans from the ravages of out of control water, saving countless lives and billions of dollars.

“Each year the state of Oklahoma is saved over $70 million in damage that doesn’t happen because these dams are in place,” Herriman said. “We should be proud of this vital piece of public infrastructure that does so much to protect our state. Often we don’t think about the benefit these dams provide. Its storm events like this one that bring the benefit of the flood control program into focus and help remind us of the need to keep this system in good repair.”

While the system works as designed, Herriman said that over 1,000 of these flood control dams will be past their design life in the next 10 years and will be in need of rehabilitation. In addition, over $25 million in operation and maintenance needs are on hold due to funding levels at the State Conservation Commission. Many dams were also damaged by the heavy flooding that hit Oklahoma in 2007. In an effort to help address these and other issues the state Legislature passed and Governor Henry signed into law the $25 million bond issue for Conservation repair this last spring. Of this bond, over $15 million will be dedicated to the rehabilitation, repair and maintenance of flood control structures, a dollar amount that Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD says represents “a huge shot in the arm for conservation.”

“The Governor and the legislature showed real leadership and foresight in passing the $25 million bond issue for Conservation repair this last spring,” Pope said. “Our flood control and Conservation infrastructure suffered severe damage from the floods of 2007 and without this money, rain events like we have witnessed this past week could someday become disasters taking lives and costing millions of dollars in damage. While much more needs to be done, with the help of the legislature and Governor of Oklahoma, we are off to a great start in insuring that the flood protection we have enjoyed for over 50 years is there for our children and grandchildren.”