Citizens throughout Oklahoma and other states will be put at risk if proposals to kill the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) upstream flood control program pass as part of the budget agreement currently working its way through Congress.

“There is no other way to put it-our elected officials in Washington are on the verge of putting thousands of Americans at risk of losing not only their property but their very lives in a future dam breach,” said Joe Parker, President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD).

“It’s not just disappointing that they would do this—it’s outright irresponsible.”

According to Parker, current proposals being considered by Congress would eliminate funding for repair and rehabilitation of more than 11,000 upstream flood control dams across America’s, more than 2,100 are in Oklahoma.  These proposals run the gamut of those floated by the Obama administration to eliminate future rehabilitation work to ideas being forwarded in the U.S. Senate to have all rehabilitation jobs now under construction stop immediately.

“It is hard to believe that the representatives of the American people would be willing to put this kind of gun to the head of their own citizens,” Parker said. “We are all in favor of balancing the budget, but it should not be done in a way that put people at risk.”   

Under language proposed by the Obama Administration, all future watershed repair funding would be eliminated as well as any funding for any federal assistance in designing these projects. 

In addition to this proposal, the continuing resolution for funding the Federal Government that recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives eliminated the funding for federal engineering, better known as operations assistance, while retaining at least some funding for rehabilitation due to the leadership of Congressman Frank Lucas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. 

Now, proposals being brought forth by the U.S. Senate would not only eliminate funding for future watershed work, but would mandate that all ongoing work nationwide come to an immediate halt.  Regardless of what language you look at or which proposal you chose, it all adds up to a dangerous situation for anyone below a flood control dam, according to Clay Pope, Executive Director of OACD.

“The first responsibility of the Government, whether local, federal or state is to protect the lives and property of its citizens; that’s why the government built these flood control dams to begin with—to protect life and property.  Now, in the name of balancing the budget, we are willing to turn our back on this critical part of our public infrastructure,” Pope said.

“Without the help of the Federal Government in the form of matching funds to repair these dams and without the engineering help of NRCS, most states will be unable to address the need to repair these dams.  In Oklahoma alone, we will have more than 1,000 dams in the next ten years that will be past their design life and in need of repair—we understand that this creates a ticking time bomb for anyone who lives under one of these structures and it’s why Chairman Lucas fought to have at least some rehabilitation funding in the House Bill. 

“All I can say to the people of Oklahoma is that I hope in the final agreement on the budget, Congress and the Administration come to their senses, either that or I hope you don’t live below a dam.”