By Kelsy Schlotthauer Tulsa WorldApr 23, 2020

Read story on the Tulsa World website

Oklahoma National Guard soldiers walk along the top of a levee west of downtown Tulsa during the Arkansas River flood last May. Engineering and design can now begin on improvements to the levees. Tulsa World file

Tulsa’s local levee system grew one step closer to improvement Thursday as Sen. Jim Inhofe announced that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite has signed the Chief’s Report.

“The signing of this report means Tulsans will be protected from floods like the ones we endured last year for years to come,” said Todd Kilpatrick, District 12 levee commissioner. “(It’s) a merit badge to get us the funding to get this thing fixed. Without that, we would not move forward. This is the great next step for us.”

The feasibility study and report, which usually would take three years to complete, was finished in about a year and a half, according to a news release from Inhofe’s office.

“The Tulsa Levees have been rated unacceptable and high risk for far too long, and today we finally have the necessary approval to begin modernizing and upgrading the levees,” Inhofe said in the release.

“We’re now ready to move to the preconstruction engineering and design (PED) phase, bringing us a critical step closer to protecting the lives of the people and the hundreds of homes and businesses that rely on the levees.”

The levees act as a safety net for the families living along the river on Tulsa’s west side and an industry corridor dense with vital refineries, Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said in the release.

“All the years of working with Sen. Inhofe to get funding for the levees is paying off,” Keith said, praising Inhofe for his advocacy in getting the levees fixed. “To say (Inhofe was) tenacious is an understatement.”

The signed report will now move to Congress for authorization and appropriation, but the Corps can begin preconstruction phases with existing funds immediately, the release states.