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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District’s Civil Works Mission

Tulsa District Public Affairs Office
Published Aug. 26, 2014

Many people do not stop to consider the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a major command within the U.S. Army. What is unique to the Corps of Engineers is its civil works responsibilities and mission. Perhaps missions, plural, would be closer to the truth.

Civil Works spans a broad spectrum of responsibilities. Flood Control, Water Supply, Recreation, Inland Navigation, Hydropower and Wildlife Management account for their primary programs. The Tulsa District of the Corps is deeply involved in each of its primary responsibilities.

One of its primary missions, Flood Control, now described as ‘Flood Risk Management,’ began in the early 1900s when Congress asked the Corps to look at what might be done to counter the many floods along our major rivers. After the 1927 flood along the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to conduct a “scientific” survey of the country’s rivers. The report back to congress was the genesis of the 1936 Flood Control Act that authorized the eventual construction of 211 flood control projects in 31 states.

The Tulsa District of the Corps was established 75 years ago by the Secretary of War issuing a General Order on the 1st of July 1939.

In 1945 the Denison District was merged into the Tulsa District giving Tulsa two major river system responsibilities, the Arkansas and Red Rivers.

Since that merger, Congress authorized the construction of 38 multipurpose flood control lakes including five lock and dams on the McClellan Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System for the Tulsa District.

Since their construction the flood control projects have prevented more than $15 billion in cumulative flood damages in the Arkansas River Basin and $2 billion in the Red River Basin.

To provide a better understanding of the Corps civil works roles that provide service to our nation, here are some of the things they do on a daily basis described by Earl Groves, Tulsa District Chief of Operations. “Tulsa District’s civil works mission is actually several programs rolled into one such as flood risk management, hydropower, commercial navigation and recreation. These programs’ responsibility cover over 160,000 square miles and includes water resource projects and activities in the Arkansas and Red River basins in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. It’s a huge job, but one that each member of the Tulsa District is proud to be a part of and support.”

When Congress authorized and funded the building of the original lakes, recreation was not a part of the lakes’ original purposes. After seeing the recreation potential of these lakes, it is authorized at all Corps Lakes. However there is no water storage dedicated solely for recreational use.

The recreation aspects of these lakes account today for more than 22 million visitors to 267 recreation sites each year.

Hydropower plants were built in eight of the multipurpose dams. These power plants generated electricity for eight million customers in 2012 from a constantly renewable resource, water. Last year $44.9 million from sale of Corps generated electricity was sent to the U.S. treasury to be applied towards repayment, investment, interest, and O&M for the water resources projects. Using this naturally renewable source, it averted the use of fossil fuels to generate the electricity saving the equivalent of over 2 million barrels of oil, over 600,000 tons of coal, and over 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas. That also avoided over 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the multipurpose lakes, the district constructed and maintains the McClellan- Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System inland waterway. It is a 445-mile waterborne transportation corridor   carrying products and raw materials to and from ports along the waterway. This inland waterway begins at Catoosa just a few miles from Tulsa and ends in the Mississippi River. To arrive at Catoosa there are 18 locks lifting barges from the Mississippi   some 500 feet to the Port’s elevation. An example of the economic importance of this inland waterway is, by using eight barges to bring or send products on the waterway the barges replaces the equivalent of 400 trucks on the highways or the use of 120 railroad freight cars.

Operation and maintenance of the waterway is shared by the Tulsa and Little Rock Districts.

The District is made up of more than 600 specialists from all walks of life, and a handful of professional Army Engineer Officers. The District has been doing this for seventy-five years proving to be a source of pride for generations of families in three states.