USDA to use stimulus to repair, upgrade dams

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that federal stimulus funds will repair and improve dams in 11 states, including several projects in Oklahoma and one each in southwest Missouri and eastern Kansas.

"Many dams and other important flood control structures are in a race against time," Vilsack said during a conference call.

More than $13 million of the $45 million in stimulus funds will go toward dam repairs in Oklahoma. The biggest project is a $4.1 million repair of Sallisaw Creek 18 dam near Stilwell, Okla., an Arkansas border town of about 3,450 people, of which about 94 percent are Native Americans.

Local officials will contribute about 35 percent of the total cost of each project on the federal list.

Also approved for federal funding are the Switzler Creek 7 dam in Osage County, Kan., and the Lost Creek B-2 dam in Newton County, Mo. The federal government will pay $1.1 million to repair the Switzler Creek dam and $400,000 for the Lost Creek dam.

Vilsack said those two projects are relatively small but could pose a significant risk.

"Many of these dams are reaching the end of their useful life," said Dave White, director of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is distributing the money. "What we want to do is try to go back in and repair those."

Some projects also will improve dam safety levels to comply with new development that has occurred downstream.

"It really takes care of all of the projects that we had construction ready," White said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department received $28 billion from the stimulus package, most of which is slated toward food assistance. The rest is to be spent on infrastructure and rural broadband.

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