Conservation Programs Division
Watershed Flood Control Programs
Flood Control Rehabilitation
|Sergeant Major Creek Dam Number 2 was the first rehabilitation project of an aging flood control dam in the nation. The pilot rehabilitation project located, three miles south of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, was completed in July 1998. The dam was originally constructed in 1949. Over 1,000 people attended a dedication ceremony to mark the event.
Oklahoma has constructed 2,107 upstream flood control dams in 64 counties. Local watershed project sponsors (conservation districts) constructed the dams with assistance from the USDA Watershed Program. The Watershed Program is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) who provide technical and financial assistance to project sponsors.
Many of the earlier constructed flood control dams in the state were built with a designed 50-year life span. Of the 2,107 dams built in the state, 807 dams will reach the end of their 50-year life in 2013 and that number will be 943 in 2014. By 2015 that number will be 1,100 (over one-half of the dams). Some dams need be rehabilitated to ensure they continue to function as they were designed and remain safe.
Today, many dams are in a far different setting than when they were originally constructed. Population has grown; residential and commercial development has occurred both upstream and downstream from dams; land uses have changed; sediment pools have filled; and concrete and metal components have deteriorated. Some dams do not meet current dam safety regulations that have been enacted and revised with more stringent requirements than when the dams were built.
Before the year 2000 NRCS did not have the authority to provide technical or financial assistance to watershed project sponsors in rehabilitating aging dams. Watershed project sponsors (in most cases conservation districts) do not have adequate funds to rehabilitate the dams. Congress passed the Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments of 2000 (authored by Congressman Frank Lucas, Cheyenne, Oklahoma) amending the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, to authorize the NRCS to provide technical and financial assistance to project sponsors in rehabilitating the dams. The purpose of rehabilitation is to extend the service life of the dams and bring them into compliance with applicable safety and performance standards or to decommission the dams so they no longer pose a threat to life and property.
The 2002 Farm Bill amended the Act of 2000 to authorize $600 million in funding for rehabilitation for years 2003 through 2007. The 2008 Farm Bill reauthorized funding for rehabilitation projects. The federal government provides 65 percent of the funding for rehabilitation projects and project sponsors provide 35 percent. Sponsors make application for funding to the NRCS and projects are selected on a priority basis with those with high safety and health concerns receiving the highest priority. Funding comes from annual appropriations by Congress.
Oklahoma was the first state to complete a rehabilitation project. Sergeant Major Creek Dam Number 2 in Roger Mills County was rehabilitated as part of a pilot project in July 2000. Sergeant Major Creek Dam Number 1 was rehabilitated a few months later.
Sandstone Creek Dam Number 17A in Roger Mills County was the first dam in the nation to be rehabilitated under the 2000 Watershed Rehabilitation Amendments. The project was completed in June 2003.
As of March 2011, Oklahoma has rehabilitated 21 flood control dams and 27 more were in various stages of planning, design or construction. Rehabilitation assessments were completed for 147 dams in 2011. It is estimated that it will take $30 million to rehabilitate the highest priority dams in the next five years.
Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to rehabilitate all the dams in a watershed project (Double Creek Watershed in Washington County). Six dams were rehabilitated between 2004-2009.