Regional Leaders Bring Waterway Concerns to D.C.

More than 80 business and community leaders carried the region’s call for levee repairs, waterway infrastructure and flood relief to Capitol Hill as part of the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s June One Voice Washington D.C. Fly-In.
The timing of the fly-in carried significant influence as federal officials discussed ongoing flood relief in the wake of historic flooding along the Arkansas River and in northeast Oklahoma.
In addition to meeting with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, trip attendees met with James C. Dalton, director of civil works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Dalton leads, manages and directs the policy development, programming, planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance activities of the Army Civil Works Program, a $6 billion annual program of water and related land resources.
Dalton announced he will reevaluate the Tulsa area’s $158 million in backlogged projects, particularly the west Tulsa levee, which he said will likely move forward as a higher priority. To put the Army Corps priority list into perspective, the agency has nearly $100 billion in unfunded construction backlogs across the nation, Dalton said.
“Mr. Dalton addressed our concerns with careful consideration for Oklahoma’s flooding and candidness regarding his agency’s own need for funding,” said Elizabeth Osburn, senior vice president of government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “Mr. Dalton and our elected officials from Oklahoma were attentive due to recent events and gave us a chance to make the case anew for these vital needs.”
Another highlight was a conversation with Rep. Markwayne Mullin, whose district contained some of the worst flooding in Oklahoma. Mullin discussed his work connecting state leaders to federal officials as flood waters rose. Mullin said he and others identified previously unknown hurdles that slowed reaction time between agencies. He also promised to clear those obstacles to speed coordination in the future.
NASA Administrator and former U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine addressed the group on the final day of the trip. He discussed plans to go back to the moon and eventually inhabit it as a launching point to Mars and beyond. He said he hopes the moon will soon be looked at as more than a refueling station to Mars, suggesting the world’s first trillionaire would be the person who figures out how to mine the moon for rare metals and return them to Earth at a profit.
The OneVoice Washington D.C. Fly-In is the Chamber’s signature federal advocacy trip on behalf of the regional business community. The annual event helps build collaborative relationships between federal elected officials and the northeast Oklahoma business community. Business leaders, local elected officials and regional suburban chamber leaders have the opportunity to speak to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation about the federal priorities included in the OneVoice Regional Legislative Agenda, a list of policies endorsed by a coalition of more than 75 cities, counties, economic development organizations and education institutions across the Tulsa region.
The OneVoice agenda is now in its 12th year. The document has become a well-respected resource for state and federal policymakers.
“The OneVoice Regional Legislative Agenda is the foundation for all of our advocacy efforts,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “That agenda is assembled collaboratively, and regionally endorsed, and it enables us to maximize our impact every time we meet with federal and state legislators. Those legislators see the agenda as a direct reflection of our region’s most pressing needs, and it forms the basis for all of our discussions, especially during this important annual trip to Washington.”
In addition to meeting with Dalton, Bridenstine and members of Oklahoma’s federal delegation, trip attendees met with policy experts from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Administration and the Department of Energy. Attendees also heard from Florida Rep. Francis Rooney.