After the Memorial Day storm of 1984 that left 14 people dead and $292 million in damage, the City of Tulsa developed its first Citywide Flood and Stormwater Management Plan (est. 1990). Tulsa is currently completing the fourth update to its Citywide Master Drainage Plan and is ranked third in FEMA’s CRS program with an impressive Class 2 rating.
While Tulsa has a comprehensive flood control program that encompasses all the activities for which the CRS program grants credit (aside from direct flood protection aid to homeowners, as prohibited by Oklahoma state law), it emphasizes the acquisition of flood-prone properties and preservation of open space in the floodplain . Through the Acquisition Program, Tulsa has cleared more than 900 buildings from its floodplains. The Mingo Creek Project (1984-1999) was formed to design and construct a system of networks of landscaped buffers and detention basins along Mingo Creek. Other recreational greenways, doubling as detention basins, where constructed in the 1990s throughout the city.
Plans for the floodplain not only consider current developments, but also include future developments; maps include the entire watershed, not just the floodplain. Taxes and fees apply to those who will need stormwater detention facilities and to those who may obstruct the floodplain storage capacity. For management purposes, certain initiatives were developed:
- Creation of the Department of Stormwater Management
- Explicit definition of funds: FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds and stormwater taxes and fees
- Public education and outreach campaigns to build support for fees, taxes, and the voluntary acquisition program
Implementation & Funding
Tulsa has engaged in both external and internal sources of funding. External sources include the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers with the Mingo Creek Project, and FEMA’s HMGP with the Acquisition Program. Internal sources of revenue include those from the stormwater taxes and fees. Since 1990, more than $200 million has been spent on capital projects and programs (with $80 million of that in federal funds). The city has secured another $300 million in projects planned for the next several decades.
Because of the city’s Class 2 rating, residents in Tulsa benefit from a 40% discount on insurance premiums within the 100-year floodplain and a 10% discount on insurance premiums outside the 100-year floodplain. Tulsa ultimately recognizes that the floodplain should be used for public parks,recreation, and open space, which has improved quality-of-life in the city.