What's your risk?
New data shows flooding in the Ottawa Co. Oklahoma area spreads toxic contamination from Tar Creek Superfund Site. Nearly 1500 homes are in the toxic flood zone, including properties that have already been remediated.
Find out if you're at risk by searching for your address in the upper right-hand corner of the map. Take our flooding survey if your home is in a shaded area that is light or dark blue.
Help Us Stop Toxic Flooding.
Know Your Risk
New data shows flooding in the Ottawa Co. area spreads contamination from Tar Creek.
Nearly 1500 homes are in the toxic flood zone, including properties that have already been remediated.
Find out if you're at risk by searching for your address in the upper right-hand corner of the map.
If the map shows your home in the light blue or dark blue shaded areas, make sure you also take our survey. We need to know your thoughts!
Tell Us How You Feel
Over 700 of you have heard us knocking on your front doors asking you to take the Flood Survey.
Many of you are taking time to complete the survey right then. Others are taking the survey on-line in your spare time.
What has happened to you should be recorded.
We want to know how you feel about a buy-out should you be offered one. The other question you will be able to answer is what is your opinion of raising the lake level.
Make Your Voice Heard
We need you to submit comments to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) about the Pensacola Dam relicensing. Must reference docket number (P-1494)
Personal stories are especially valuable because they are loaded with facts (your experiences!) that FERC can use as the justification for lake levels that keep us safe.
Raising a concern is an invitation to find useful facts that can protect us, but your lived experiences are the facts that will protect us.
Rather send a postcard?
Stop by L.E.A.D. Agency to get One
Electronic comments are preferred, but snail mail is welcome.
If you choose to mail a comment, your submission should be addressed to as shown below
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Debbie-Anne Reese, Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E
Washington, DC 20426
Make sure you reference Docket Number (P-1494)
Why are we flooding?
Flooding in Ottawa County, Oklahoma is a man-made, generational issue, that began with the building of the Pensacola Dam that created Grand Lake.
Flooding not only affected individuals' homes, but family and friends of the community as well as business, farms and the livelihood of the people in Ottawa County.
The devastating effects of rebuilding, increased costs for flood insurance, and limited affordable housing continues to burden the community.
Frequent flooding is hurting our communities, and the relicensing of the Pensacola Dam could significantly increase future flooding.
The Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) which operates Pensacola Dam on Grand Lake, is currently seeking a new license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that will determine its operating conditions for the next 30 to 50 years, including factors directly influencing the area's flooding.
A Legacy of Flooding.
Learn about some floods that have occurred since the Pensacola Dam was built
"No one disputes that these communities have flooded again and again. But a debate over whether operations at the lake contribute has played out in reams of federal filings and years of lawsuits involving hundreds of residents."
"In July 2007, 608 homes were damaged. 236 of those homes were completely destroyed. 266 received major damage, and 106 received minor damage."
"More than 500 people, about half of them in Miami, voluntarily left their homes in the northeastern part of the Ottawa County because of rising water from the Spring and Neosho rivers, said the county's civil defense director, Terry Duborow...
The Neosho River at Commerce, about five miles north of Miami, was at 24 feet at midmorning and was expected to crest at no more than 24.4 feet. Flood stage is 15 feet, and the weather service said the river should fall below that on Thursday.
At least a foot of water covered highways and rural roads into Wyandotte, Miami and Quapaw, virtually cutting them off from the rest of the state. No injuries have been reported in Oklahoma. Ottawa County officials declared a state of emergency on Sunday."
"The Miami Civil Defense assisted in the evacuation of 379 families and fifty businesses. Many others evacuated their homes with the help of relatives and friends. Businesses and companies volunteered the use of trucks and trailers. Manufacturers, retailers and civic organizations provided storage facilities for furniture and contents from flooded homes. The Red Cross provided 8,000 meals during the five day period."
"The rain began falling on July 9. It didn’t let up for four days. Some areas in SE Kansas received 18.5 inches of precipitation. The corps of engineers saw it coming, and dropped the lake levels as rapidly as they could, but on Sunday, July 15, a virtual wall of water slammed down the Neosho and backed up into the town.
It took out the K O & G railroad bridge. It was obvious that this was going to dwarf the 1943 flood which covered 37 city blocks, and displaced 140 families.
Eventually, the flood covered 150 city blocks. Over 3,000 people had to leave their homes. The water peaked at an astonishing 33 feet above normal."
"In May, 1943, Miami had its first severe post-Grand Lake flood. Over 16 inches of rain fell and the Neosho engulfed the SE part of town once again. The river crested at a record 28 feet. The Frisco bridge was nearly taken out by debris from a boat dock from 5th street, NEO employees assisted Frisco hands in dismantling it and saving the bridge. 150 families were evacuated from 36 square blocks that became submerged. A half-mile of Route 66 was under water west of the river. Eight years later, residents would see a flood that would dwarf this one."
Receding floodwaters contaminate other waterways nearby.
Your home doesn't need to be flooded or even in the flood zone for you to be affected by what's happening in Ottawa County.
The Flooding Ripple Effect.
How Flooding in Ottawa County, Oklahoma Hurts Your Health, Home, and Wallet
Flooding Harms Health
Exposure to black mold and other toxins can cause developmental delays, some Cancers, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, and more.
Flooding Destroys Homes
Flooding can make homes unsafe to live in, ruin your belongings, block neighborhood access, require costly repairs, and destroy feelings of safety.
Flooding Costs Money
We foot the bill for replacing our stuff, costly home repairs, pricier groceries and fuel, use of emergency services, and fixing our infrastructure.
This little corner of Oklahoma was the last piece of land available to a group of tribes that had lost theirs — They were squeezed into the tiny little piece of the state, out of what was Indian territory, stacked up here together on the east side of the Neosho River.
So when flooding happens, and we’re expecting more flooding over time, more of the land that was given to the tribes in exchange for what they lost will be underwater. It won’t be all underwater all of the time, but a great deal of it will be, and not usable as they were promised.
Executive Director & Tar Creekkeeper
Terms to Know.
A phenomenon in which water flowing in a river or stream is slowed or reversed due to an obstruction, such as a dam, causing water levels to rise upstream. The backwater effect has been known to increase flooding in Ottawa County and surrounding areas since the 1940s
A statement or concern submitted by a stakeholder to FERC during the relicensing process. Public comments can raise concerns, share personal stories, or provide suggestions for the new license conditions.
The procedure through which a hydroelectric dam operator, such as GRDA, applies for and obtains a new license to continue operating the dam after the current license expires. This process involves input from stakeholders and regulatory agencies, like FERC.
Operating a hydroelectric dam requires a license issued by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Licenses are valid between 30 and 50 years and must be renewed before they expire.
FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)
Federal commission responsible for granting licenses to operate hydroelectric dams across the nation and for setting the rules (“conditions”) that dam operators must agree to follow as part of their license.
GRDA (Grand River Dam Authority)
Operates the Pensacola Dam and is applying for a new license to operate the dam for another 30 to 50 years. GRDA is governed by a seven-member board of directors who are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma, the Speaker of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives, and the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate.
License conditions are rules the dam operator must follow when operating the dam. License conditions include everything from mandatory dam safety inspections to public access to land around the dam to how high water in the lake can be.
Pensacola Act (Inhofe Ammendment)
An amendment introduced by Inhofe in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would protect the Grand River Dam Authority from FERC.
The amendment is intended to “clarify” responsibilities relating to the Pensacola Dam and reservoir--specifically the conservation pool and flood pool.
The conservation pool, all land and water of Grand Lake below the elevation of 745 feet, and the flood pool, all land and water of the lake between 745 feet and 755 feet, are at the center of the dispute.
The GRDA states that the additional lake level is needed to produce the power it needs, due to silting of the lake.
Pensacola Hydroelectric Dam
This is the proper name of the dam that creates Grand Lake.
The people, organizations, or governments that are affected by the dam relicensing. Stakeholders have a legal right to participate in the relicensing process by submitting comments. FERC and GRDA are legally required to respond to stakeholders’ comments.
Is this the lawsuit the City of Miami is fighting against Grand Lake?
The relicensing process is separate from the lawsuit between the City of Miami and GRDA, which focuses on whether GRDA is responsible for flooding damage that occurred in the 2007 flood. The relicensing process looks to the future and aims to set the rules and conditions for operating the dam over the next 30 to 50 years. While the outcomes of the lawsuit and relicensing process may have separate consequences, both are important in shaping the future management of the Pensacola Dam and its impact on local communities.
Can my comments and personal stories make a difference in the relicensing process?
Yes, your comments and personal stories can make a significant impact. FERC relies on the information provided by stakeholders to make informed decisions about license conditions. By sharing your experiences and concerns, you contribute valuable facts to the decision-making process, which can help shape the rules and regulations that affect your community.
Didn’t Senator Inhofe pass a law that says FERC can’t stop GRDA from raising lake levels?
In 2019, Senator Inhofe quietly added an amendment to the 2020 defense spending bill that tried to set special rules for the relicensing of the Pensacola Dam. That amendment is sometimes called the Inhofe Amendment or the Pensacola Act.
It is now law, though it’s unclear whether the language used actually does what the former Senator wanted it to do. The law does attempt to prevent FERC from placing any conditions in the new license that limit lake levels at all.
What’s important to know about the law, and what no one has disputed, is that it also allows FERC to place any conditions in the new license that are necessary to ensure the Project’s safety or to protect public health. Floods are widely recognized as a public health hazard, and FERC’s own regulations classify floods as a public health concern.
This means that even under this new law, FERC can establish license conditions that set a maximum lake level if they have facts in the record showing: 1) that management of the dam causes upstream flooding; and 2) that dam-related flooding poses a public health risk.
How can I make my voice heard in the relicensing process?
As a stakeholder, you can submit public comments to FERC, sharing your concerns or personal experiences related to the dam and its impact on your life. Personal stories, in particular, can help FERC understand the real-life implications of their decisions on water level management and the potential consequences for local communities.
Who are the stakeholders in the relicensing process?
Stakeholders include individuals, organizations, or governments that are affected by the dam relicensing. Examples include the City of Miami, OK, Tribal Nations, and residents of northeast Oklahoma. Stakeholders have a legal right to participate in the relicensing process by submitting comments, which FERC and GRDA are legally required to respond to.
What is the relicensing process and why is it important?
The relicensing process involves granting a new license to operate a hydroelectric dam, such as the Pensacola Dam. Licenses are valid for 30 to 50 years and must be renewed before they expire. This process is crucial because it sets the rules and conditions for dam operation, including safety measures and water level management, which can directly affect residents in the surrounding areas.
What is the Pensacola Dam and how is it connected to flooding in Ottawa County?
The Pensacola Dam is a hydroelectric dam that creates Grand Lake. Its operation is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and managed by the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA). The dam's water level impacts flooding in northeastern Oklahoma, as higher water levels increase the risk of flooding in nearby areas.