Aerial Flooding

People stand near the edge of floodwaters from the Arkansas River that encroached on levees near Sand Springs on May 30. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

A tentative plan including a cost estimate for refurbishing Tulsa’s aging levee system is expected next week, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s office said Tuesday.

The Tentatively Selected Plan will outline proposed work, including a cost estimate that will serve as a placeholder in the fiscal year 2021 federal budget.

Speaking to the Tulsa World, Inhofe said the required public comment period will push back a final report on the levees until early next year, but the overall project remains on track for FY 2021.

“We were a little ambitious when we said the (final) report will be finished by the end of (2019), but we are making headway,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Between them, the two committees are responsible for oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would be in charge of the project.

Inhofe has for years advocated improvements to the World War II-era levee system, but this spring’s near-record floods lent new momentum to the endeavor.

Inhofe also answered questions Tuesday about his continued support of President Donald Trump, gun control, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and transportation.

Inhofe said he is open to enhanced background checks or red flag laws to keep guns away from potentially violent people, but he opposes two measures passed earlier this year by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

“They’re pretty extreme and a step in the wrong direction on Second Amendment rights,” Inhofe said.

“Knowing the individuals (House sponsors), and knowing what they want, it would be a first step. That’s prejudging, but I can prejudge because I know them.”

H.R. 8 would extend background checks to most gun sales, including those at gun shows. H.R. 12 would extend the background check review period from three to 10 days.

According to reports, enhanced background checks probably would not have prevented either accused shooter from buying the guns used in El Paso and Dayton.

Inhofe emphatically denied Trump’s often incendiary statements and tweets played any role in last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

Official say the Dayton shooter’s motives remain unclear, although he identified himself as a “leftist” on Twitter and reportedly had an enemies list while in high school.

The El Paso shooter, though, seemed to have been angry about Latin American immigration, a subject that Trump has addressed in strong language. Inhofe said most of the complaints are from Democrats who are “running out of things” on which to attack Trump.

“When you see all the (good) things this president has done, they’re desperate to criticize him,” said Inhofe.

Nevertheless, Inhofe agreed Trump’s tweets often make him “cringe” and that they frequently exceed the boundaries of accepted behavior.

“I don’t think they’re appropriate for anybody except him,” Inhofe said. “He seems to be the exception. He gets away with it because it works.”

Inhofe said he is confident Trump has taken control of world affairs through an uncanny ability to assess leaders and deal with them in unorthodox ways.

“I’m so impressed with the bizarre negotiating skills of this president,” Inhofe said.

“He’s not like anybody else, but it seems to be working. Even though (North Korea’s Kim Jong Un) is still experimenting (with potentially nuclear-tipped missiles), the president has his ear.”

Asked what Trump has accomplished that any other Republican president wouldn’t have, Inhofe highlighted regulatory reform, particularly in the Environmental Protection Agency.

“You’ve never seen a more drastic change in any bureaucracy,” Inhofe said.

He said Pruitt’s brief time at the EPA helm was “a disaster,” but said he doesn’t think it necessarily ended the former state attorney general’s political career in Oklahoma.

“The people here aren’t as aware of national issues,” Inhofe said. “They remember how good he was here.”

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Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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