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Breach discovered in dam at Lake Waxhoma, crews work to repair damage

Posted at 3:17 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 10:07:22-04

OSAGE COUNTY, Okla. — Crews are continuing to work to repair a breach in a dam at Lake Waxhoma.

It’s in Osage County, about a couple of miles east of Barnsdall. Water is rapidly flowing into Little Dog Thrasher creek from the dam.

GALLERY: Breach in dam at Lake Waxhoma near Barnsdall

Barnsdall Mayor Johnny Kelley said he heard about the dam breach Wednesday morning.

The dam, built in 1955, is owned by the city of Barnsdall. Kelley said it’s an old dam they’ve had problems with, and the breach is possibly due to the amount of recent rainfall.

“It’s just one of those things, you know," he said. "It started washing around the north end, and then it went underneath it and began to channel, and now we have this.”

Crews immediately began working on a fix for the dam. Trucks crossed floodwaters to bring in large rocks to help fill the hole.

“Building a road across the dam so we’ll be able to back these trucks in and dump rock. And then a trackhoe will be putting that rock into the hole," said Jerry Roberts, director of Osage County Emergency Management. "We’re just trying to slow it down, a temporary fix. So, we don’t lose the whole dam at one time.”

Roberts said the 70-acre lake holds about 660-million gallons of water, which would cause a serious problem if it were to collapse. However, he and Kelley don’t believe that will happen, saying there’s no evacuations and no immediate threat.

“We don’t anticipate anything, you know, bad happening," Kelley said. "If we got another torrential down pour, it could be really detrimental to us, but at this point, we’re pretty confident that we can get this stopped 'til we can fix it permanently.”

For that more permanent fix, Roberts said the Army Corps of Engineers estimates it could be about $20 million to repair the dam.

They’re not sure how long it will take to plug the dam to stop the water flow. But the lights are up, and they’ll be working here through the night.

FEMA classifies this dam as a high hazard potential dam, meaning loss of human life is likely if the dam fails. That data lists the last inspection date in 2017.

Meteorologist Brandon Wholey looked at recent rainfall and the depth of the dam.

GRAPHIC: Lake Waxhoma dam measure
GRAPHIC: Lake Waxhoma depth

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