Oklahoma’s infrastructure is in serious disrepair and it affects all of us. Almost everyone in District 35 has had some sort of personal experience with this problem, whether it is losing a tire to a huge pothole or nervously watching the river and checking rainfall amounts. Despite incremental efforts to make repairs, our roads and bridges are still dilapidated and crumbling. We pay for that, both individually and collectively, in wear and tear on vehicles resulting in repair bills, lost productivity, and higher insurance costs for both individuals and businesses. Furthermore, the longer we go without a serious effort to address the problem, the more expensive those costs are going to become.
Solving this problem begins with fully funding the Eight-Year plan to review, triage, and repair our roads and bridges. In addition, we must begin preparing now for what comes after the Eight-Year plan. While investments in public infrastructure occurred with regularity from the 1930s to the 1960s, new projects and even maintenance for existing projects remain unfunded and thus unexecuted due to budget cuts. Just as with preventative healthcare for people, early, preventative maintenance will fix problems with our infrastructure before they grow into threats to public safety and productivity.
Oklahoma does a poor job of managing the risks and opportunities presented by our various bodies of water. We face challenges from both an emergency management standpoint and also in water quality and treatment. 2019's record flooding across the state made those issues crystal clear. District 35 residents understand the consequences of not addressing these issues before they become emergencies. Thousands of homes and businesses, including The Gathering Place were threatened and damaged with rising waters in 2019. Without intervention in our upstream infrastructure, there is no guarantee against similar or worse threats in years to come. A lack of adequate flood prevention measures means higher insurance premiums contributing to an artificially high cost of living and working. To address these problems, the State should partner its agencies and administrators with federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, municipal governments and tribal governments to review Oklahoma’s dams, levees, and flood control systems. Levees need to be improved, flood safety protocols reviewed and updated, flood resiliency planning should occur at the state, county, and municipal levels, and wetland preservation and expansion should be implemented for natural flood control.