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Lake Lawtonka dam leaking, city hopes FEMA will help

LAWTON, Okla._The City of Lawton has a multi-million dollar problem with the dam at Lake Lawtonka, and now they're looking for help from the federal government to fix it.

Water is seeping through, even though the floodgates are closed, because the seals need to be replaced. City officials say the amount of water being lost is minimal, so there's virtually no impact on the city's water supply, but it needs to be repaired. On top of that, two of the floodgates were damaged during this year's flooding and are now stuck shut. All together, the repairs would cost around $2.5 million.

A. J. Jabbar, assistant director of water/wastewater with the City of Lawton Public Works Department, says the dam needs to be resealed up to every 25 years. She says the leaks coming from the dam are a sure sign it is time to do the job. But getting it done, and finding the money, is not easy.

The city designated any leftover money from the 2005 CIP list to be used to replace the seals. That meant the city had to wait until those other projects were completed before they could focus on the dam. That happened a little less than two years ago.

"Last year, we started talking about it, asking what were we going to do and how were going to do it, we started planning for it," Jabbar explained.

During the planning phases of getting the dam resealed, several rounds of heavy rains flooded the lake and caused damage to two of the gates. Debris from the flood damaged some of the stems that are used to open the gates. Jabbar says if Lawton were to see the amount of rain we did in May and June, the gates could be manually raised with chains, but it is cheaper in the long run to have them fixed.

"It's most cost effective to get the operator for the two gates operable, so we can open and close them with the actuators that are in place, or replacing the actuators," Jabbar said.

Officials from FEMA will tour the dam next week to determine if the city can get flood-damage funding from them to fix those two gates. They cannot help with the resealing, because it's part of the dam's regular maintenance.

"I have given them a cost estimate and some of the pictures of what has happened. Next week, I'll take them so they can observe and see how it happened," Jabbar said. "After they have approved the project we will do them as one."

Part of the reason the city wants to do both repairs at the same time, is that they will need to use a barge to bring in a crane for each job. The cost for that is $1 million per trip, so combining the jobs will save money.

Once both projects begin, public works says it will take six months to complete.

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