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Fred Creek cleanup to reduce risk of flooding

Construction aims to decrease flooding in Fred Creek.The tractors and dump trucks spreading around large amounts of mulch near the bridge between ORU’s Graduate Center and Aerobics Center are part of a cleanup project organized by the city of Tulsa.

The vegetation in Fred Creek has built up over the past six years, and is causing problems such as pooling, stagnant water and backflow.

The City of Tulsa has contracted with the company Earth Smart to complete the project.

“Anything blocking the water flow must come out,” said Travis Gibson, an Earth Smart employee.

The mulch was brought in to create a temporary road at the bottom of the creek for the tractors to use during the vegetation removal. The mulch makes it possible for heavy equipment to move along the bed without stalling, and then is removed once the saplings are gone.

Tim Philley, executive vice president and chief operations officer, explained it is ORU’s responsibility to maintain vegetation from the surrounding areas of the creek down to the water.

However, the responsibility of keeping the creek bottom clean rests with the City of Tulsa’s core of engineers.

Philley said that the current cleanup project is the first to happen since the initial reconstruction. The project was broken down into phases, and most of the cleanup has been completed off campus. Only a small stretch by the AC remains.

Gibson said the project will likely be completed within a month.

When asked how often this clean up will occur, Philley said, “It probably will be every few years, just depending on the silt movement and the growth of the plants.”

The reconstruction process started in 2007, according to the ORU website.

Crews cleaned out debris, widened the banks of the creek, put new bridges in place and built a new embankment.

Fred Creek was originally reconstructed in response to a flood that occurred in 2000. The narrow channel along with debris under the bridge between the AC and GC blocked the flow of high storm waters, causing the areas above and around the bridge to flood. The waters entered the first two floors of the GC  and LRC through the garages.

The water levels were as high as four feet and caused over $5 million in facility damage. The current cleanup project will reduce the risk of flooding on campus.

Philley explained that the creek bottom must be clear in order for the water to flow properly.

“You have all of this growth on the bottom of the creek that all of a sudden could get clogged again and then defeat the purpose of trying to have flood control,” Philley said.

Any current puddles on the first floor of the GC located near shipping and receiving are not related to Fred Creek, according to Philley. The hot water pipes have worn down since the university was first built.

Repairs are expected to be completed this summer.

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