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Oklahoma Hosts National Land and Range Judging Contesters

NRCS Helps Repair Bridge over Troubled Water

Floodwaters damaged the bridge on the only access road to Bixby Ranch Estates
Floodwaters damaged the bridge on the only access road to Bixby Ranch Estates in the town of Bixby, 20 miles southeast of Tulsa. The extensive damage left the bridge unsafe for emergency management vehicles, which endangered the residents of the subdivision

The bridge was fully repaired in a short time frame
The bridge was fully repaired in a short time frame thanks to an agreement with the USDA-NRCS and Bixby City officials through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.

When nearly 10 inches of rain fell in the Tulsa area April 7-10, rushing floodwaters damaged the only access road bridge to the Bixby Ranch Estates subdivision in the city of Bixby, 20 miles southeast of Tulsa. Damage to the bridge was so severe the Bixby city officials temporarily suspended access to the subdivision by emergency vehicles and school buses.

This left the owners of the approximately 15 homes in the subdivision feeling like they lived on “Bixby Ranch Island” as one homeowner described it.

Bixby Mayor Ray Bowen, and City Manager Micky Webb, knew they had to do something to keep their citizens safe and the community functioning.

“Anytime a bridge goes out it’s not a good situation,” says Mayor Bowen. “But this was a critical issue because this was the only access road for these people and emergency vehicles.”

Bowen and Webb called state legislators and Tulsa County officials looking for help. That’s when it was suggested they contact the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

On the afternoon of Thursday, April 10, with the rain still falling outside, Bowen and Webb entered the Tulsa County field office of the USDA-NRCS.

“They told me they had an emergency situation in Bixby and the town needed immediate funding support to help repair the damaged bridge,” says NRCS District Conservationist Gary Bishop. “I told the Mayor and City Manager about our Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program and I thought we could help them.”

The purpose of the EWP program is to undertake emergency measures to safeguard lives and property from floods or any other natural occurrence which is causing or has caused a sudden impairment of the watershed. The sponsor (the city of Bixby in this case) is responsible for 25% of the project’s cost and the NRCS cost-shares the remaining 75%.

Bishop immediately went to work contacting his supervisor, plus NRCS Resource Engineer Larry Coppock, and EWP Program Manager George Townsley, to advise them of the situation and the request for emergency assistance.

Before the end of that day, Coppock had visited the site and was able to determine material quantities and funding needs to support the repair.

By the following Monday, NRCS officials had classified the site as exigent and Townsley submitted all the necessary information to the NRCS national headquarters in Washington D.C. for funding approval.

That evening Bishop attended the Bixby City Council meeting where the city of Bixby officials agreed to serve as the local sponsor for the EWP project and provide 25 percent of the total installation cost.

After funding was approved from Washington D.C., and the city agreed to sponsor the project, Oklahoma NRCS State Conservationist Ronald Hilliard approved the project agreement. The repair work began on Monday, April 21, only seven working days after the original request was made.

As part of the project, over 500 tons of 24 inch rock riprap was installed to help stabilize the bridge. Freddy Trujillo, soil conservation technician for NRCS in the Tulsa Field Office, was appointed as the government representative on this project. He was pleased to report that all work on the bridge was completed by Friday, April 25.

“This has been a real life saver for our community, in a short period of time,” Mayor Bowen says. “I can’t say enough about Gary and all the NRCS people that acted so quickly to help us.

“If we hadn’t found out about that program we would have had a real tough time getting that project done,” Bowen continues.

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS May 2008

Last Modified: 06/02/2008

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