Oklahoma Conservation Districts to Begin Damage Assessment of Flood Control Infrastructure
June 2, 2015—All of Oklahoma’s flood control infrastructure suffered wear and tear during a month of historic rainfall. As floodwaters recede, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission reports that crews are inspecting the 2,107 dams operated by conservation districts for damage.
“It’s impossible to say the extent of damage caused to the dams until the water goes down—that is taking some time,” said Tammy Sawatzky, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Conservation Programs Division director. “Preliminary inspections indicate the cost of repairs may run in the millions of dollars.”
Heavy rain caused the grass covered auxiliary spillways of 133 dams to flow with water. This design feature prevents water from overtopping the earthen dams and threatening structural integrity. Of these 133 dams, 21 incurred damage; of which 4 suffered significant damage.
Damages observed include cuts into the base of dams from backward flowing water, dislodged spillway pipes and heavy erosion in auxiliary spillways.
“Minor repairs can cost between $1,000 and $5,000, while more serious repairs can cost up to $75,000,” said Sawatzky. “Multiply that by 2,107 dams, and the repair cost is potentially quite high.”
Some funding for repairs is expected to come from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The program allows conservation districts and similar entities to secure emergency repair funding on a cost-share basis. NRCS covers up to 75 percent of the repair costs and the remaining 25 percent must come from a local source. Local contributions may come in the form of in-kind contributions such as labor and equipment.
Oklahoma’s $2 billion flood control infrastructure costs $2 million annually to maintain. This maintenance cost comes in addition to emergency repairs such as those needed now. In exchange, the dams provide an average $88 million in flood damage prevention annually. For the period of April 18-May 31, the dams prevented an estimated $101.2 million in flood damage to property, businesses and other infrastructure according to NRCS Water Resource Office.
2015 NACD South Central Regional Meeting to be held in Tulsa, Okla.
The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts will host the 2015 National Association of Conservation Districts South Central Regional Meeting, August 9-11 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Okla. The three-day meeting, "Rock'n for Conservation," will include educational tours, informational speakers and a jammin’ social scene.
Rates: $83.00 per night plus 8.35% sales tax and 5% occupancy tax.
Online at www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com. Be sure to enter your Group Code "OACDAug2015."
By phone at 1-800-760-6700 and reference “NACD South Central Region Meeting 2015."
Deadline to reserve rooms: Sunday, July 19, 2015.
To register for the meeting, download a registration packet here.
Please complete a separate form for each registrant. Payment is required prior to processing registration and attendance. A credit card processing fee of 4% applies to all credit card purchases.
Pre-registration is defined as registrations received on or before midnight CST on July 19, 2015.
Registration is defined as registrations received after midnight on CST on July 19, 2015.
Questions? Contact Sarah Blaney at email@example.com.
Millions in damages prevented by dams, conservation practices during historic May rainfall
May 12, 2015—Oklahoma’s network of 2,107 flood control dams and voluntary conservation practices prevented an estimated $22.57 million in flood damages from the May 1-9 storms according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Water Resource Office.
“The flood control network was designed to protect farmland, roads, bridges, homes and lives, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last week of rainfall,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) executive director. “Like any form of infrastructure, operation and maintenance of these dams is critical if we hope to continue reaping the benefits they provide.”
According to Oklahoma Mesonet, May 2015 is so far the wettest since 1921. Some of the hardest working dam clusters over the last 10 days include:
-Fourche Maline Creek watershed, Latimer County, 14 dams, 9.97 inches of rain, $819,272 in damage prevented.
-Upper Clear Boggy Creek watershed, Coal, Johnston, and Pontotoc Counties, 49 dams, 10.1 inches of rain, $1,029,641 in damage prevented.
- Sandy Creek watershed, Garvin and Pontotoc Counties, 29 dams, 8.11 inches of rain, $764,362 in damage prevented.
-Okfuskee Tributaries, Okfuskee and Okmulgee Counties, 29 dams, 7.89 inches of rain, $693,985 in damage prevented.
Rainfall averages from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“Local conservation districts and the private landowners they work with also deserve credit for this success,” said Gary O’Neill, NRCS state conservationist. “It’s important we not lose sight of the other side of the coin—soil health. Healthy soils achieved through voluntary conservation practices are crucial to halting the extensive flood and wind related erosion witnessed in this state during the 1930s and ‘50s.”
Practices such as no-till farming and stream bank fencing mean stabilizing ground cover is in place when floodwaters rise. Due to higher levels of organic matter above and within the soil, healthy soil withstands flooding, erosion and drought better than bare or plowed soil.
“High residue, no-till and cover crops build soil that is more resilient to climate extremes—both flood and drought.” said Greg Scott, OCC soil scientist. “Organic matter, earthworms and roots hold soil in place and provide pathways through the soil for water to infiltrate. Bare soil seals off, crusts over and can be almost as ineffective as concrete at absorbing water, especially in flood events.”
Banks flooding on Washita River, flood control dams fully functional
April 20, 2015 - Upper Washita Conservation District in Roger Mills County reports flooding along the Washita River. The district reports flood control structures are functioning as designed—trapping large volumes of water and slowing it as it makes its way downstream.
Over six inches of rain from April 12-17 has challenged the region’s drought damaged soil. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), one inch of rain is equal to about 27,154 gallons of water per acre. Extremely dry soil is highly erodible and absorbs water much slower than healthy soil.
Roger Mills County is home to 143 flood control structures. In total, Oklahoma’s conservation districts operate and maintain 2,107 flood control structures across the state. Prior to their construction beginning in the 1950s, many parts of Oklahoma flooded regularly.
Oklahoma’s flood control structures provide $82 million in annual benefits which include flood water impoundment, water supply, recreation, wildlife habitat and firefighting.
Dust Bowl Survivors to Tell Their Story on Black Sunday 80th Anniversary
Ernest Herald recalls a rabbit hunt cut short by stinging gales of dust, forcing him to lay face down in a field until the storm passed. Betty Ann Lam's family was driving to church when they saw the black dust cloud chasing them down the highway. Pauline Hodges remembers her father’s words: “the worst part about the Dust Bowl, is that I helped cause it.” He was a farmer from the Panhandle.
On the 80th Anniversary of Black Sunday, join us in recording the memories and lessons of those who survived this vital period in our nation’s history.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 9 – 10 a.m.
WHAT: Panel discussion with Dust Bowl survivors to commemorate their harrowing ordeal and recognize what citizens and conservation districts are doing today to ensure Oklahoma never again succumbs to the dust.
WHERE: Oklahoma State Capitol, Second Floor, Blue Room
WHO: 30-50 Dust Bowl survivors
Governor Mary Fallin (invited)
Members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives
Trey Lam, Executive Director, Oklahoma Conservation Commission
Gary O’Neill, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Jordan Shearer, Project Director, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Note: Many of our Dust Bowl survivors are happy to speak with the media. To arrange on or off-site interviews, contact Robert Hathorne at 405-437-9171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, was a massive dust storm that blackened the sky over many states. It began in the Oklahoma Panhandle and, days later, was settling dust upon window sills in Washington, D.C. and ships 300 miles off the East Coast.
Awards Presented During Conservation Day at the Capitol
March 24, 2015 - The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) sponsored “Conservation Day at the Capitol” on Monday March 23, 2015. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) co-sponsored the event. Several of the state’s local conservation districts displayed exhibits at the event along with partner agencies and organizations.
The exhibits were displayed in the Capitol Rotunda on the 4th floor from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The displays featured diverse conservation activities across the state and addressed local natural resource needs.
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Trey Lam, Billy Cook with the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2014 Outstanding District Director Walt Freese and OACD President Steve House.
Representative Leslie Osborne and Secretary of Agriculture, Jim Reese were also present.
OACD Board President, Steve House, and Vice-President, Dan Herald,
emceed the awards ceremony. Dr. Dan Sebert, Vice-President of the OACD
Board presented Western Farmer’s Electrical Cooperative with the “Friend
of Conservation” award for their work on the Oklahoma Carbon Program.
Kent Fletcher, Environmental Specialist at Western Farmer’s accepted the
Lisa Knauf-Owen, OCC Assistant Director, and Mark Thomas, Executive Vice-President of the Oklahoma Press Associated presented the Excellence in Communications awards. Deer Creek Conservation District received first place and Kay County Conservation District received second place in the Excellence in Communications category. The Excellence in Innovative Communication was awarded to the Woodward County Conservation District and second place was award to the Caney Valley Conservation District. Carla McBride of the Anadarko Daily News was recognized for the Outstanding Support of Conservation by an OPA Member Newspaper. McBride was nominated by the South Caddo Conservation District. Scott Cloud of the Newkirk Herald Journal was recognized as the Outstanding Continuing Publisher Support of Conservation Coverage. Cloud was nominated by the Kay County Conservation District.
John Weir with the Oklahoma Prescribed Burn Association presented the Carrying the Torch award to Harry Fritzler, retired NRCS Range Management Specialist. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma were both awarded the Friend of Fire for their efforts to promote, raise awareness of, and use prescribed fire.
Oklahoma Tops EPA Charts for Pollution Reduction to Waterways
March 23, 2015— Oklahoma ranks second among the states for protecting waterways from harmful nutrients according to new EPA data. This is the sixth year in a row Oklahoma has ranked in the top five states for nonpoint source (NPS) pollution reductions.
Oklahoma ranks second for phosphorus reduction (358,469 pounds) and third for nitrogen reduction (856,906 pounds) to streams. These nutrients are major contributors to algal bloom issues in the state’s reservoirs which can challenge water treatment facilities, lead to fish kills and, in rare cases, pose a risk to human health.
Oklahoma receives less than two percent of EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 funds, yet meets between 20-30 percent of EPA’s national NPS reduction goals annually. The state’s NPS reduction numbers are based solely on the voluntary implementation of conservation practices by farmers and ranchers across the state—no regulation is involved. “This success is proof that voluntary, incentive based conservation is the best method of protecting our soil and water resources,” said Trey Lam, Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC) executive director.
Conservation practices that promote soil health such as no-till farming, and allowing natural vegetation to grow along stream banks can drastically reduce the amount of runoff that flows into streams. Oklahoma’s model allows local conservation districts to determine conservation priorities, then addresses those priorities with resources rather than regulations. This local approach has been successful since reversing the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
OCC will build on Oklahoma’s success with a number of new initiatives in 2016, including two Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects in partnership with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Focusing on the Elk City Lake and Grand Lake watersheds, these projects will fund conservation practices along streams to improve water quality in the reservoirs downstream. Learn more about these projects here.
“We’re very fortunate to have a legislature that funds NPS water quality monitoring,” said Shanon Phillips, OCC Water Quality Division director. “Not only are we able to provide the public with resources to implement conservation practices with Section 319 funds, we can scientifically verify results through state funded professional monitoring—Oklahoma is unique in this regard.”
Monitoring results are viewable on Oklahoma’s Interactive Stream Health Map. Currently in beta, the map offers nearly a decade of water quality data from over 200 monitoring sites: bit.ly/StreamHealth. More sites and years of data will be added in the coming months.
Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council and Oklahoma Pest Action Council to Host Comprehensive Invasive Species Conference
The Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council and Oklahoma Pest Action Council are co-hosting a comprehensive invasive species meeting Friday, March 13 at the National Weather Center in Norman.
The full day conference will incorporate a variety of invasive species issues important to our state, such as: crop weeds and pests, invasive species management, successful biocontrol of invasives, and information on many different invasive species, including invertebrates, pathogens, plants, and mammals. The effect of invasives on crops, natural areas, and urban systems will be covered.
Registration fee will include full day conference participation, resource bag, lunch, and break snacks and beverages. In-service credits and CEUs will be offered.
Learn more and register online here.
Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts Primed for 77th Annual State Meeting
February 19, 2015−The Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) is primed and ready for its annual meeting starting Sunday afternoon, February 22 and running through Tuesday, February 24. The meeting will take place at the Reed Center in Midwest City.
“This is a great time for the state’s leaders in conservation to get together and chart our course forward for the coming year,” said Kim Farber, OACD President. “The meeting theme is “Back to the Future” to honor our rich history of accomplishments, while also bringing attention to pressing conservation needs in Oklahoma.”
The meeting will be both entertaining and educational. The keynote speaker Monday morning will be Oklahoma’s Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin. Other topics to be covered include improving soil health, water quality and maintaining upstream flood control dams.
“Its important for everyone to realize that without the diligent work of conservationists over the past eight decades, we would be smack dab in the middle of another dust bowl as we enter our fifth year of crippling drought,” said Farber.
For more information including meeting agenda and registration information, click here.
Lucas and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Commemorate
One-Year Anniversary of 2014 Farm Bill
On Jan. 30, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in El Reno to discuss the 2014 Farm Bill and its impact on the state of Oklahoma. The legislation has strengthened several agricultural programs, such as crop insurance, while increasing accountability by repealing direct payments and tightening eligibility requirements. The event at Redlands Community College marked the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill.
“I am glad to be in Oklahoma today to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Farm Bill,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The Farm Bill has already created jobs, helped farmers reach new markets at home and abroad and boosted the country's economy. This bill has provided much needed disaster relief and reformed programs to better help farmers manage risk. It has also helped families secure home loans, extended credit to small businesses, and invested in innovative research and conservation partnerships in every state. I want to thank Chairman Lucas once again for his hard work in getting this bipartisan bill through Congress and to the President's desk.”
“I appreciate Secretary Vilsack joining me in this forum to discuss the Farm Bill and address the legislation’s implementation with constituents,” said Congressman Lucas. “In addition to saving taxpayers $23 billion, this Farm Bill provides a true safety-net to producers in Oklahoma and the rest of the country. As I stressed during the creation process, the Farm Bill is not written for the good times, but for when times aren’t so good. I am proud of the work we did and look forward to working with the Secretary in continuing to effectively implement the important reforms included in this Farm Bill.”
The 2014 Farm Bill includes $57.6 billion for conservation programs throughout the next 10 years that benefits both agricultural producers and the environment including the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that is helping to fund three conservation projects in Oklahoma. In addition, it includes several disaster assistance programs that provide financial assistance to eligible agricultural producers for losses due to agricultural disasters including drought, flooding and other extreme weather.