Add the Oklahoma House of Representatives to the list of those who may be taking a closer look at the Arkansas River Valley’s spring floods.
State Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks, has asked for an interim study on the matter, saying it would help federal, state and local officials better deal with similar events in the future.
“We can ask what we did right and what are some things we could better,” Sims said. “And it’s an opportunity to bring attention to the levee system.”
Sims said the study would benefit the entire state because of the scope of this year’s flooding. At a minimum, he said, he wants to include all of the Arkansas River’s tributaries, including the Grand and Verdigris rivers.
The interim study is one of 145 requested by House members this year. Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, will decide in the next month or so which of those he will authorize.
Interim studies are essentially hearings on specific issues held while the Legislature is not in session. Interim studies are often springboards for legislation or policy proposals.
Sims, whose training and experience are in fire protection and risk management, said he wants this interim study to be more like an “after-action report.”
“A lot of what I do is built around after-action reports,” Sims said. “Any kind of catastrophic event, or near-catastrophe, we get together and ask ‘What did we do right? What do we need to do better?’ ”
This spring’s floods may qualify as both catastrophic and near-catastrophic.
For homeowners in the Town and Country neighborhood in west Tulsa County and downstream communities such as Webbers Falls, Fort Gibson, Braggs and Muskogee, the floods were pretty devastating.
But for others, this past month was not as bad as it could have been. The Tulsa-area’s aging levee system held, and building codes adopted after the 1986 flood kept areas such as Jenks’ Riverwalk high and dry.
In his own district, which includes parts of Jenks and west Tulsa, Sims said his biggest concern is for the Garden City area along the Arkansas River between about 31st and 41st streets.
Sims, though, said his study should benefit far more Oklahomans than only his constituents.
“This was a statewide event,” he said. “It impacted so many cities and towns. What I want to do is bring in all of the stakeholders and have a discussion.”
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