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Officials asking Army Corps of Engineers to speed up levee study

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 20:07:07-04

SAND SPRINGS, OK (KJRH) — About nine months ago, the Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District began a study to improve the Sand Springs levees. But after major flooding, they’re being asked to get it done in less than half the time it would normally take.

On Wednesday, Senator Inhofe co-signed a letter with Senator Lankford and Kevin Hern that asks the Army Corps of Engineers to finish their study by the end of this year. The study normally takes three years to complete, and it was already on an expedited schedule.

It's referred to as a feasibility study, and the one being done on the levees was initially going to be sped up either way given the need to keep people safe. The letter references the thousands of people who live behind the levees, and the $2 billion in public and private infrastructure they guard.

But now, instead of the two-year goal the Army Corps of Engineers were aiming for, they would now have less than a year and a half to finish up the study. The letter says it’s to be able to get the needed funding secured in the president’s 2021 budget, but some are concerned the expedited process could lead to some things being looked over.

"We are going to continue to work to try to get that accomplished as quickly as possible," said Brannan Parrish with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, "while still having an effective study that provides us with good information that allows us to make the appropriate recommendations.”

However, Senator Inhofe says he's willing to take the risk, referencing the possibility of another potential flooding.

"What if we miss-guess it and it comes in two years or one year instead of happening later, in which case we would not be prepared?" Senator Inhofe asked. "I would rather take the risk of not being completely prepared, than I would to not try to improve the situation now."

Parrish says the recent flooding could actually help speed up the study, by giving engineers valuable data on how the levees withstand extended periods of heavy pressure.

Tulsa County Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick supports the letter, and says it's vital to speed up the process in any way possible.

“I thought it was a great idea," Kilpatrick said, "because if we can expedite the study, the quicker we get it, the quicker we can get the fix on it.”

The letter was addressed to The Honorable R.D. James, Assistant Secretary for the Army for Civil Works, and Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General.

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