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Over 250 dams on ‘High Alert’ due to expiration date

OKLAHOMA CITY - You may not know, but dams actually have an expiration date.

And, we’ve learned a number of dams across Oklahoma could be at risk.

In the wake of all the recent flooding, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission is now working to renovate some of the more higher risk dams across our state.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission said over 250 dams across the state, including Boomer Creek in Stillwater, are 'high hazard,' meaning - if they fail - peoples lives are at risk.

Heavy rains and flooding have tested a number of dams across Oklahoma.

“Several of them are 60 years or older,” said Tammy Sawatzky, the Conservation Programs director at the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. “There’s threat of loss of life if it were to break.”

In Stillwater alone, 12 dams are considered high risk.

“It’s going to cause significant damage,” Sawatzky said.

Two neighbors who live right behind one of the high-risk dams at Hazen Lake spoke with News 4.

“We have a lot of water drainage runoff problems,” said Ronald Klingaman, a resident. “It’s like Oklahoma and the tornadoes, you just have to be cautious and be aware.”

They hope the dam will continue to do its job until crews can get to it, but priority is key.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission said their inspectors look at every dam across the state once a year.

The ones that are in immediate danger get re-constructed first, like Cottonwood Creek in Logan County.

“We will increase the width of the spillway if there’s the land and space to do that, and we will raise the top of the dam,” Sawatzky said.

But, with Oklahoma’s unpredictable weather, especially recently, Sawatzky said they’re always prepared for the worst.

“Each one of these high hazard dams has an emergency action plan that the city has, the district has so that we can be prepared,” Sawatzky said.

Until crews can reconstruct some of the more vulnerable dams, nearby residents appreciate the preventative measures being taken.

“Fantastic,” said Art Porter, a resident.

“Very thankful,” Klingaman said.

The Oklahoma Conservation Commission said there are four other dams at the top of the renovation list, Perry City Lake, Meeker, Wilburton and a lake in Beckham County.

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