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
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
“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
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,
“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.