Tulsa gets Roadmap to the Future with CRS
One of the most-improved-in-flood-problems towns in the United States is Tulsa, Oklahoma. A major city of 400,000, it lies on both sides of the Arkansas River. During the mid-1900s, population growth spurred development, much of it in “desirable” waterfront areas.
By the 1980s, Tulsa had faced nine major flood disasters in 15 years. Every May, local officials would hold their breath, waiting to see what the new rainy season would bring.
In the years since then, Tulsa gradually embraced comprehensive floodplain management and watershed management programs. Vigorous public awareness efforts and massive buyout programs helped shift people out of floodprone areas. At Class 2, Tulsa is one of the top-rated communities in the CRS today.
“The CRS has been absolutely critical to Tulsa’s floodplain management program,” says Ron Flanagan, the city’s Planning Consultant. “The CRS encourages no single solution, but a comprehensive approach.”
In fact, the list of flood loss reduction measures the city carries out resembles the CRS’s list of credited activities: open space preservation, higher regulatory standards, acquisition and relocation, floodplain mapping, stormwater management, drainage system maintenance, and more.
“You follow the CRS and you get reduced floods and you get rewards by way of flood insurance premium reductions,” Flanagan says. “And this is money that typically aids the local economy because it is spent in Tulsa.”
Tulsa has not experienced a flood disaster for 30 years. Without that in-the-face reminder of the danger, the biggest challenge now is complacency. Many of its citizens were not born or were too young to remember when Tulsa faced floods routinely.
Fortunately, according to Flanagan, the CRS is helping keep flooding and floodplain management in front of elected officials.
“The CRS provided a road map for the city to use to achieve a premier, life-saving, and money-saving local program for managing our flood vulnerability,” Flanagan says. “Now, without major flooding, keeping the program on track is critical.”
This is where the new CRS activity, “program for public information,” is going to be a big push for Tulsa in the future. The ongoing public awareness efforts that will earn credit for Tulsa under the CRS will also keep people vigilant and supportive of the city’s work.
“If we don’t have that continuous awareness, we’re going to lose the battle,” Flanagan said. “I am the biggest supporter of the CRS. The CRS is our best weapon.”