Miami, Oklahoma residents voice concerns with proposal to increase Grand Lake’s level by two feet.
Lead Agency pushing against amendment by Senator Inhofe that gives Army Corp of Engineers more power
MIAMI, Okla. – How long would you have to deal with your home flooding to say enough is enough?
For Carol McCool, who’s been flooded five times over the past 40 years, that time is now.
“There’s just no words to describe how it ruins your life and your family,” says Miami resident Carol McCool.
Her home was one of several that was impacted by flooding in May of 2019. It’s taken her so long to recover, that she just got back into her home on February 10th, almost a year later.
“It’s just hard to start over when you’re in your seventies,” says McCool.
That’s why she joined several others at a rally in Miami to push back against a proposal to increase the level of Grand Lake by two feet.
“We’re having catastrophic weather, and we need to be planning for it and lowering the lake level, not raising it,” says McCool.
The Lead Agency says when heavy rain occurs, the lake floods, causing the Neosho River, the Spring River and Tarr Creek to back up and flood the communities that are close to them.
They fear the proposal would cause more flooding, and push toxic heavy metals like lead into resident’s yards and homes.
“Is EPA gonna have to come back and spend millions more cleaning that up again? And will they come back?” says Earl Hatley with the Lead Agency.
The Lead Agency also says it’s a proposal by the Grand River Dam Authority.
KOAM reached out to the GRDA, which says they did not ask for a lake level increase.
Residents are also voicing concerns with an amendment in the recently passed Military Defense Authorization Act that was introduced by Senator Jim Inhofe, that gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the sole responsibility of flooding operations at Grand Lake.
“It’s attempting to take our voices away. The upstream impacts of flooding would not be a concern,” says Hatley.
No matter what happens, McCool hopes that something is done to address flooding, sooner rather than later.
“We’ll have catastrophic flooding here if they don’t do something about it now,” says McCool.
KOAM reached out to Senator Inhofe’s office.
They sent us this statement, in which they respond to a press release by the Lead Agency that was sent out for the rally.
““My work to codify the Corp’s responsibility for flood control at Grand Lake is about reducing flood risk in Oklahoma. To suggest otherwise is wrong, especially because research clearly shows that my legislation decreases the flood risk for communities throughout the region. Here’s why: Grand Lake is the largest lake in the Arkansas River Basin, and if the Corps is unable to manage lake levels there – meaning they would be unable to control 10 percent of the flood capacity, about 500,000 acre feet—the entire basin would have an increased flood risk. This one project is part of a larger system that the Corps must be able to manage as a whole. To allow another entity to dictate flood control at Grand Lake would put communities in Oklahoma at greater risk during flood events.
“Now that my legislation has been enacted, the Corps has every tool they need to protect residents thorough Oklahoma. My legislative fix to clarify the Corps’ ability to do its job was needed, which is why it was broadly supported by the Chairman of FERC, the Corps of Engineers, downstream communities, major tribes and the state of Oklahoma.”
On background – The press release is intentionally misleading and spreads false information about Inhofe’s legislation, the causes of flooding and the role of GRDA in the licensing process.
First, the press release says that Inhofe’s amendment was to “protect GRDA from upstream efforts to weigh in on the relicensing efforts.” This is simply not true. Inhofe’s amendment simply codifies the existing arrangement to empower the Corps to prevent flooding in the Arkansas River basin by ensuring it is the sole agency in charge of flood operations at Grand Lake—as it is with every other project in the Arkansas River Basin. The amendment does nothing more than codify 75 years of existing practice and establish consistent policies to ensure smooth flood control operations along the whole river system. The status quo has always been that the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for flood control management, while FERC is responsible for the hydropower part. Ahead of the upcoming FERC relicensing, there have been efforts to subvert this historical division of authorities, therefore this amendment improves our ability to hold the federal agencies accountable for their respective responsibilities. It will provide much greater clarity and help reduce the impact of flooding in the entire region. Nothing in the legislation prevents upstream communities from weighing in on the relicensing efforts.
Second, the release implies that lake levels at Grand Lake somehow have an impact on flooding upstream. Not only are those communities upstream, but they are also at a higher elevation – making upstream flooding logically inconsistent. I have attached a study from the University of Oklahoma (Dennis Thesis) that confirms that lake levels at Grand Lake do not have an impact on flooding – rather it is caused by conditions upstream. I have also attached a letter from the Corps reviewing the Dennis thesis and affirming its findings. I have also attached a report from Dr. Forrest Holly that echoes those findings as well.”
The studies that are referenced in the above statement can be found below. They also say that Senator Inhofe doesn’t own a yacht.