Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller announced Friday that Oklahoma will be receiving $26 million of the $262 million federal dollars that are being allotted for dam rehabilitation. This appropriation was achieved through the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.
The bill provided an ample increase in from the previous "sporadic" money of $12 million according to Oklahoma Conservation Commission Executive Director Mike Thralls. The annual investment increased by almost 21 fold. Weller called the allocation of money an "investment" in a statement released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"This investment will protect people and property from floods, help keep our water clean, and ensure that critical structures continue to provide benefits for future generations," Weller said. "Families, businesses and our agriculture economy depend on responsible management of dams and watersheds, and we are continuing to provide that support to these communities."
Oklahoma is leading the nation in the watershed program with over 2,100 watershed flood control dams in the state. Thralls said the program provides $185 million of benefit to this state every year, and nationwide the number is $11 billion.
With this money, Thralls plans to focus on the rehabilitation of dams, specifically 85, while also being mindful of water needs.
"When we look at rehabilitation, we're very conscious of water supply needs," said Thralls. "Forty-two of the dams that we hope to rehabilitate provide water to surrounding municipalities. As we rehabilitate dams we're hopeful for opportunities to provide dams and safety, but also water supply as we adjust to the pattern of weather that goes from drought to water and back again. We're working with Oklahoma Water Resources Board to help with ideas for these locations."