R.D. James the Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) talks with Todd Kilpatrick Levee Commissioner for Tulsa County District 12 Levee next to the Arkansas River with the levee pump house in background in Sand Springs on Aug. 8. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Representatives from Tulsa County, Tulsa County Drainage District 12, the cities of Tulsa and Sand Springs, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reached an agreement August 12 on a tentative plan for improvements to the Tulsa/West Tulsa levee system.

The study is paced to be the first feasibility report completed in the nation as a supplemental appropriation under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 for disaster relief within a 2-year timeframe. The Army Corps of Engineers team accelerated the traditionally 3-year study by one full year in order to help meet the needs of the people protected by the levee system. The recommended improvements include filtered berms with toe drains, a landslide impervious blanket, reconstruction of pump stations, and detention ponds. Tulsa County District 2 Chief Deputy County Commissioner John Fothergill said it won’t feature a slurry wall like county officials initially wanted, but the tentative plan would mark a major improvement to the levee system.

“This stage is extremely important to the continued acceleration of our project schedule and allows us to move forward with completion of the draft report, so that we may get the report to the public and other agencies for review and comments. It is critical that we have buy-in for our recommended plan. We want the public to be fully aware of what we have planned for the levee system,” Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Bryan Taylor said in a statement.

The draft report is tentatively set to be released Sept. 16, which will be followed by a 45-day comment period. The project team will then review comments and make appropriate changes to begin drafting the feasibility report. The preconstruction, engineering, and design phase will begin immediately following the approval of the feasibility report (anticipated for September 2020).

“This is a great next step to reduce the risk for the community that sits behind the levee,” District 12 Levee Commissioner Todd Kilpatrick said in a statement. “We are one step closer to shovels in the ground and implementing this work. It’s a great plan—one we have to make sure is implemented.”

Total project costs are estimated at approximately $150-$200 million. The federal government will cover approximately 65% ($96-$130 million), while local city and county governments will be expected to cover the remaining 35% ($52-$70 million).

“We’ve been working on this project at some level for nearly 10 years,” Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners’ Chair Karen Keith said in a statement. “Now that it’s at the forefront with our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team, we are excited to see progress. And, we are so grateful to our federal delegation and the District Army Corps of Engineers team who worked diligently to expedite the study timeframe.”

Rachel Snyder 918-581-8315