By Stacey ReeseOctober 24, 2019
Following historic levels of spring and summer rainfall across the region, flood waters have now receded and U.S Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District, personnel have commenced cleanup and recovery operations. As part of this effort site surveys are underway and work on restoring damaged areas and structures has begun.
According to Deputy Operations Project Manager B.J. Parkey, "Oologah Lake could not have re-opened as quickly as it did without the help of countless volunteers and the determination of adjacent land owners and community partners who surround the lake."
Keystone Lake, located approximately 15 miles west of Tulsa was as significantly impacted by the flooding brought on by historical levels of rainfall in April, May and June. With some recreation sites being submerged for more than 70 days, damage to trees, campsites and other structures was unavoidable.
Siltation and erosion issues also created additional post-flood recovery work for several lakes and waterways across the region.
According to Travis Miller who oversees Keystone and Heyburn Lakes as well as the structure at Lake Arcadia, work in the coming months will include reshaping drainage contours and ditches, due to siltation and erosion brought on by the flood. Lake Office personnel are also focusing their efforts on rebuilding damaged campsite pads, roadways, sidewalks, docks and recreation facilities.
At Marion Lake, Assistant Lake Manager Kevin McCoy indicated one major challenge was the blooming of harmful blue-green algae, which occurred when the lake was 8 feet higher than normal and all shoreline facilities were under water.
"While the algae blooms are gone," said McCoy. "Toxic algae residue remains on everything that was in the water, including but not limited to, electric pedestals, water hydrants, fire rings, barbecue grills, cookers, tables, shelter tops, curb stops, trash cans, shower facilities and restrooms."
"All of these items need to be pressure washed with hot water producing units to eliminate potential contamination in the future," added McCoy, "The task is daunting, time consuming and labor intensive but required to ensure safety."
In addition to recreation site and shoreline damage, the Arkansas River Navigation channel, managed by USACE, was severely impacted by heavy shoaling throughout the channel. Additional damage occurred on May 28 at the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam 16, as a result of two barges breaking away from their moorings and striking the structure. While the navigation channel is now navigable in a limited capacity, specific sailing lines have been sent out to navigation customers where shoaling is still present within the channel.
The district has requested and received approval for temporary pool deviations at some locations to allow navigation system recovery to accommodate barge traffic in areas where shoaling exists and remains to be dredged. According Navigation Project Manager Rodney Beard, pool deviations are currently limited to adequate releases from upstream pools.
"Dredging of the system from Oklahoma into Arkansas will continue for the next two to three months," said Beard. "Shoaling caused by the spring and summer floods continues to be a serious issue."
Chief of Operations Rex Ostrander said, "The district has made a lot of progress since the end of the flood, but there is still a lot ahead in evaluating the significance of the damage."
There is still a long way to go to get where we want to be. Some of the parks have been around for many years and no longer accommodate today's campers. There will be an effort to look at the damaged area with the future in mind. Funding continues to be an issue, but we will continue to use available funding to reconfigure, rehabilitate, repair and upgrade areas to bring us into current day standards, said Ostrander.