U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District Seeks $34M to Repair Storm Damage

Article excerpt

In managing last year's floods, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District estimates it prevented $681 million in damage to 16,000 downstream structures.

But recreational areas and other lands maintained by the Corps sustained $34.5 million in damage from the June and July rainfall that ranged from 10 to 45 inches across the Arkansas and Red River basins, raising water flow rates as high as 300,000 cubic feet per second in 40 of the district's 50 managed flood pools. Unlike civilian claims, those needs may not be met by federal flood insurance programs.

The Corps is seeking supplementary funds to repair those losses, augmented by $135,000 in damage from December's ice storm. That could result in an economic injection for Oklahoma, southern Kansas and parts of northern Texas, since the Corps would outsource many of these repairs.

"Some of our park lands are still under water," said Operations Division Chief Billy E. Banks, who in four weeks will retire after 32 years with the Tulsa District.

Col. Anthony Funkhouser, who assumed command of the Tulsa District June 29, said $10 million of the damage involves restrooms, showers and other structures. The remainder ranges from electrical hookups at recreational vehicle parks to docks, playgrounds, picnic tables and other elements.

Funkhouser's 635 employees work under a $74.5 million annual budget to maintain dams, locks and other flood reservoir management systems. The federal government funds the Corps' other primary services - investigation and construction - by individual project, often with local governments paying for 50 percent or more of the cost.

Since work on the fiscal 2009 budget has already advanced to the congressional level, Funkhouser's team is now at work on the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. Obtaining supplemental funds would allow the Corps to repair the damage now.

"It's kind of like a Christmas present," Banks said of the earmarked funds. "We don't know if we're getting them until we get them."

This comes as the Corps and operators along Oklahoma's segment of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System also hope to secure more than $30 million to attack a backlog of its critical maintenance needs. …