jc_storm damage

DREW HARMON | The Edmond Sun Floodwaters surge over a field off Meridian south of Covell in Deer Creek following a storm iin March. Rains flooded several roads in west Edmond and the Deer Creek area.

Flooding has at times stranded Stan Moorman so he couldn’t leave home just north of Deer Creek schools. The construction contractor and supervisor plans to vote in favor of an upcoming flood relief bond for the sake of his Deer Creek neighbors.

Oklahoma County voters will have an opportunity May 13 to approve the $6 million natural hazard mitigation and flood relief that would directly affect Deer Creek. The flood relief bond is part of a package of five bond items amounting to $84.5 million that is up for voter approval in Oklahoma County. The largest item on the bond election ballot will be the purchase of the former General Motors plant for use by Tinker Air Force Base.

“As a former firefighter and current board member of the Deer Creek Fire Protection District, I believe it’s necessary to have Deer Creek as flood free as possible so emergency services can run uninterrupted,” Moorman said.

Firefighters have rescued 15 helpless Deer Creek motorists this year due to floods, said Deer Creek Fire Chief Doug McWilliams. Two-inches of swift water carried away a BMW, he said.

“I’m all in favor of (the bond) if we can get the motorists free from danger,” McWilliams said.

Deer Creek residents expected flooded roads on a yearly basis. Thunderstorms drench the area and strand motorists. Rising brown water from Canadian County flows through northwest Oklahoma City to flood grounds already saturated in Deer Creek. Eventually, excess water drains into the Cimarron River in Logan County.

“Oftentimes, we’ll put an engine on east side of Highway 74 so we can provide protection, and up on Rockwell,” said Roy Brock, chairman of the board for the Deer Creek Fire Protection District.

The Deer Creek Fire Protection District will send six personnel to swift water rescue training in May, McWilliams said. Additional rescue training for more personnel is planned for next summer. Oklahoma County District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn warned that motorists crossing rising water not only risk hazards of flooding but also take for granted the road is still there.

Oklahoma had more federal disaster declarations in 2007 than any state in one year in the history of the United States, Vaughn said.

“Last year, we had nine federal disaster declarations stemming from ice storms and floods,” Vaughn said. Five of those disaster declarations were in Oklahoma County.

Vaughn said for every dollar Oklahoma County invests in trying to mitigate Deer Creek’s flooding issues, the federal government will invest $3 in FEMA grants to assist with those projects.

“It’s time to take some of those tax dollars we send to Washington and bring them home,” he said.

The proposed ad valorem tax on a $100,000 house for the flood relief portion of the bond would cost homeowners 9-cents a month for 15 years. The total cost of the bond equals about $1.26 per month for homes valued at $100,000.

“It makes a lot of sense because it floods out here quite a bit, especially since my lovely wife is an employee of the Deer Creek School System,” said Deer Creek homeowner Jack Thompson, an investment executive for Wells Nelson and Associates.

The proposed bond will not only help the community but also benefit the schools, said Becky Wilkinson, superintendent of Deer Creek Schools. Safety is an important concern of Deer Creek Schools, so the district sets aside four bad weather days within the calendar each year. Most school districts set aside two bad weather days, she said.

Oklahoma County has hired an engineering firm to determine the best proposal to control water flow across Deer Creek. Raising all the roads in Deer Creek would be cost prohibitive, said Randy Grau, District 3 chief deputy to Vaughn.

“We’re looking at the development of a series of control and release water ways, which would include include up to a 500-acre recreational lake,” Grau said. And “then a series of much smaller lakes and ponds that’s much more cost efficient. Some roads and bridges might need to be raised because of the series of lakes and ponds. And there may be a small dam to be built.”

The County Commissioner’s office has been meeting with Deer Creek residents to discuss the proposed flood relief process.

“People get stuck out here all the time and have to go at least 3 miles out of the way,” said Deer Creek High School senior Kelsi Larson. “I would support this because it would help with the transportation and allow us to go to school continually and be able to get to town.”

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 114

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