National Guard levee (copy)

National Guardsmen and Corps of Engineers workers fill sandbags to protect a levee near 67th West Avenue and Charles Page Boulevard on May 28. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

Congress is still waiting for the final paperwork on the Tulsa-West Tulsa levee project, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe reminded the Army Corps of Engineers commanding officer this week.

“I urge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers … to take all appropriate measures to review and complete the Chief’s Report for the modernization of the Tulsa-West Tulsa Levee system as soon as practical,” Inhofe wrote to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite. “Timely consideration will ensure the authorization for the construction of this project can be included in any water resources legislation this year.”

Inhofe noted the Corps first described the levee system as “unacceptable” and at “very high risk” of failure more than a decade ago, and he reminded Semonite of last spring’s flooding.

“Any catastrophic failure would have resulted in the flooding of the homes and businesses of thousands of Oklahomans, the Sand Springs Petrochemical Complex (a Superfund site), and major industrial sites including refineries and utility sites—more than $2 billion in public and private infrastructure,” Inhofe wrote.

The signing of the chief’s report is the next-to-last step in getting plans for rebuilding the 70-year-old system before Congress. The report is a summary of the Corps’ findings and recommendations that must be signed by the chief engineer — in this case, Semonite.

Once the report is signed, notification letters are sent to the the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Inhofe has generally been complimentary of Semonite, referring to him as “a real tiger” during a hearing in October.

At the same hearing, Semonite said he had about 25 chief’s reports in the works, including Tulsa’s.

“Where does (Tulsa) rank with the other 24?” Inhofe asked.

“They’re all very, very important, sir,” Semonite replied.

The project is expected to take several years to complete and cost $150-$250 million. In this week’s letter, Inhofe asked the Corps to consider 30-year financing for Tulsa County’s share of the expense, which will be 35 percent of the total.


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Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

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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