Statewide flood plan to be developed under new law

Oklahoma Senate Bill 1269, legislation that directs the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) to develop a Statewide Flood Resiliency Plan, was signed into law by Governor J. Kevin Stitt on May 18.

In addition to the creation of a statewide flood mitigation plan, the law creates the State Flood Resiliency Revolving Fund to fund both the development of the Plan as well as future flood hazard mitigation projects.

The flood plan will examine flood risks, and potential flood mitigation projects beyond the local level, along an entire runoff area within a larger watershed. The plan will examine the need for additional flood risk information, such as flood maps, and will ultimately feature a State inventory of specific flood control infrastructure projects that will include cost-benefit analyses. Flood risk needs and assessments within watersheds could also be coordinated between communities in those watersheds.

Authored by Senator Dave Rader of Tulsa, and sponsored by Representative Lonnie Sims of Jenks, the law was requested by the OWRB as the agency responsible for long range water resources planning and management.

“The by-product of Oklahoma’s unfortunate luck with natural disasters is that we are very well versed in how to deal with them and respond to them. We must now move toward a more proactive approach to hazard mitigation. This mirrors how FEMA and other federal agencies are beginning to approach disaster response – mitigating the damage before the event occurs.  In order to do that properly, and protect taxpayer resources as we do it, we must have a well-thought out plan is coordinated across communities and the state. I want to thank the state and federal agencies involved in this effort, and Governor Stitt for signing this legislation into law,” said Senator Dave Rader.

The OWRB and other hazard mitigation and infrastructure agencies – including the Oklahoma Floodplain Managers Association, Oklahoma Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma Conservation Commission, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service – have already began initial collaboration for the plan.

“We place a very high priority on this legislation and see this flood plan as a significant piece that will strengthen the state’s long-term water resiliency planning moving forward. Past updates of the Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan focused largely on assessing drought resiliency and water and waste water reclamation infrastructure needs. Today, especially as we see more frequent extreme flooding events, it is more important than ever to comprehensively understand our state’s critical flood control infrastructure needs and better collaborate at all levels to address these needs,” said OWRB Executive Director Julie Cunningham.

In the fall of 2019, Representative Sims conducted a Legislative interim study to review all aspects of the federal, state, and local preparation and response to the Arkansas River basin floods during the spring of 2019. Among other issues, the interim study highlighted the need to establish a coordinated plan to begin addressing Oklahoma’s hazard mitigation and infrastructure needs. During the 2020 legislative session, Senator Rader and Representative Sims lead on a number of flood-related bills before the ultimate enactment of SB 1269.

“Flooding remains one of the worst types of disaster in terms of the loss of property and life. In 2019, much of Oklahoma, and especially the Arkansas River basin, experienced record flooding. Oklahoma has already experienced flooding in some areas during 2020.  After reviewing the lessons learned and discussing proactive solutions, I’m honored to be a part of legislation that helps us proactively plan and mitigate for future flood events instead of only reacting and responding,” said Representative Lonnie Sims.

Source: OK Water Resources Board

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