Geologist maintains climate change is hurt Tulsa flood levee system

Geologist Leads Group Opposing Arkansas River Portion Of Vision Plan


Bob Jackman, an independent geologist and close follower of water and how it can help Oklahoma and also hurt the state believes the 84-year old levee system developed to protect the city of Tulsa is “worthless.”

In an opinion piece for the Tulsa World, Jackman pointed out how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has done nothing to improve the system in the past several decades, admits the Tulsa levee system is one of the worst in the entire country.

Jackman, one of OK Energy Today’s subscribers also believes climate change is also affecting the systsem.

Below is his opinion piece or go to Tulsa World to also hear an audio version:


“How long, oh how long” is familiar ringing rhetoric used by politicians’ frustration that we the people, voters, have waited too long for needed government promises.

Apply these words to Tulsa’s levee system — built in the 1940s and still waiting after 38 years for Tulsa’s Arkansas River Levee System to be rebuilt after the city’s disastrous 1986 flood. Yet, the majority of elected Tulsa mayors, city councilors, U.S. congressional delegates and U.S. senators since that flood have promised to fix Tulsa’s potentially catastrophic levee system.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Tulsa District appoints a new Army colonel-in-charge ever, three years. Since 1986, 12 colonels postponed rebuilding the crumpling 84-year-old Tulsa levee system located down river from Corps’ huge Keystone Dam. Why does each colonel leave it to the next one?

The 20-mile levee system stretching from Sand Springs to Tulsa is frightening. Its 1,800 clay pipe relief wells are broken, and 11 miles of vital toe drains are plugged up. Plus, it’s scary how the levee tops have in spots sunk below the 1986 flood levees tops. Such low places cause major levee breaches.

Tulsa’s levee condition have been known since Corps’ report of the damages survey of the 1986 flood, published months after the flood. Whose responsibility is it for the 38year (13,870 days) delay in fixing this dangerously broken mess?

All who have been involved, including a savvy and frustrated Tulsa County Levee District #12 Commissioner, claim agreements were made, but there is always a stumble on who pays. Remember Corps official approvals on Tulsa’s new Arkansas River Dam and Lake Recreation zone plus new Bridge were required, but City of Tulsa proceeded anyway without Corps approval.

Recently the Corps announced it would cost $191 million to rebuild Tulsa’s levee system. Of that, the Corps would pay 65%, or $124 million. The rest could be funded by a mix of city, county and state appropriations.

Independent engineers and geologists evaluated climate change and found global warming is causing the Arkansas River basin to have diminishing flows. Also, it found the majority of Arkansas River tri-state’s basin undergoing serious droughts. Chetopa and Sublette, Kansas, ran out of water plus Colorado reports its Southern Platte River flows shrink due to climate change’s heat increases.

Observed flow decreases may affect many including Tulsa’s new $100 million recreational river dam and lake’s water levels future.

Universities from Texas, Nebraska and New Jersey’s geoscience departments and other climate researchers published reports on what is called the “extreme heat belt” within the Midwest states. It refers to the increasing days of 100 degree-plus temperatures across multiple states in the nation’s interior.

These are hot, hot days with high evaporation rates that lead to water shortages at a time when water is in high demand. It will result in lower river and lake levels. Plus, according to Oklahoma State University, mounting scientific evidence since the early 1800s proves the existence of climate change and overall global warning. It’s too often dismissed by decision makers who are not scientists or currently active in the research.

America has 30,000 miles of levees in Army Corps of Engineers portfolio, but the Corps’ Infrastructure Report Card report is absent levee standards. The Corps acknowledges Tulsa levees are one of the nation’s worst. When adding in the 38 years of doing nothing makes it — unofficially — the Corps’ longest delayed hazardous levee system.

Developers continue to build on the Tulsa-Jenks-Bixby areas of the Arkansas River’s flat — now dry — lands that are classified flood plain(s). That is a physical geography term applied to river-adjoining flat, dry, fertile lands with scientific proven histories and scars from past flooding. Think of levees as your home insurance. Would you go 38-plus years uninsured, unprotected after having major flood damages?

This winter’s abrupt weather shock was due to global warming. Our climates and weather changes have become unpredictable with major riverside cities vulnerable to future flash-like large floods. The best example is the Tulsa levee system built in early 1940s and now 84-years-old and worthless.

Bob Jackman is an independent geologist living in Tulsa.