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Tulsa Country corks Fred Creek

Seven years of tolerating muddy ditches, commuter bridge installations and never-ending construction is paying off through the $15 million Fred Creek Rehabilitation Program. Prohibition of flooding became the mutually desired outcome, but not without some controversy between the city and the university over maintenance responsibilities.
“The main goal of the Fred Creek flood control project between Evanston Avenue and Lewis Avenue was to provide flood protection from a one percent [one hundred year] flood,” said Brad Jackson, lead engineer of storm water design for the City of Tulsa. “The
final channel section that was ultimately constructed incorporates several items, including a flood control component, a natural channel bottom to provide riparian habitat, and landscaping that incorporates into the ORU campus. The project was and continues to be a great success and has met and exceeded its goals.”
The easement between ORU and the City of Tulsa turned Fred Creek into a 500-year flood storm water outlet by increasing the depth. Over time, trees and vegetation began to grow in Fred Creek, causing ORU’s insurance company to issue a warning stating it would not cover flood damage if the creek was not properly maintained.
“Per the agreement, I think they [Tulsa] are holding up their side. It’s kind of interesting, for the first couple of years the city communicated to us that we could not touch the creek bottom because it was a habitat,” said ORU Chief Operations Officer Tim Philley. “Come to find out, they missed that a little bit. The purpose was flood control, so we came to an agreement. We can kill vegetation on the bottom.”

LRC flood initiates Fred Creek Rehabilitation Program

ORU was founded in 1963 while Tulsa was experiencing a boom as the city’s population increased by as much as 25 percent. Over the years, the urbanization and development in South Tulsa made little Fred Creek into a turbulent river during flash floods.      

According to the City of Tulsa, floods struck every two to four years during the 1960s and early 1970s. Flash floods ate at Fred Creek’s banks over time.

In May 2000, rain hammered down in Tulsa causing Fred Creek’s waters to rise at alarming rates, and pour into the first floor of the Learning Resource Center (LRC). Former ORU president Richard Roberts told Tulsa World the flash flood caused $5 million in damages to 200,000 square feet of the building.

ORU invested $2 million into trying to address the creek damage, and Roberts reached out to the City of Tulsa for help. The intention was to enhance Fred Creek through Tulsa’s proposed $250 million general obligation bond. The proposal made the April 2005 ballot due to the persistence of Roberts, since the various shrubs and trees native to Oklahoma grow on the banks of Fred Creek.

ORU donates Fred Creek easement to City of Tulsa

The easement states: The City will perform non-routine maintenance to maintain the structural integrity of the project, remove blockages and, periodically, sediment from the channel bottom, the low water dams and the silt traps to maintain the flow of storm water, as designed.  The Grantor will perform routine landscaping maintenance such as mowing, trimming and other vegetation maintenance.

“The City of Tulsa has removed almost 8,200 cubic yards of silt from the channel between Lewis Avenue and Evanston Avenue. The last siltation removal was completed between November 2012 and May 2013 at a cost of $51,515.10,” said Jackson.

ORU spends approximately $100 to $125 thousand a year on upkeep in Fred Creek. There are two full time employees gardening the top two tiers, and continually cleaning the creek bottom by clearing the vegetation. The City of Tulsa gets involved when the silt builds up. Jackson predicts the vegetation needs to be cleared shortly to maintain the flood conveyance capacity. Fred Creek continues to meet the standard envisioned for it. There is no cleaning scheduled at this time, but the university will continue to work with the city to solve the irregularity of maintenance on the creek bottom

“It’s just going to be an ongoing process,” Philley said

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