Reports from television sometimes tend to get a little hyperbolic. But this one from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City about the Route 66 town of Arcadia, Okla., brings a new angle to the state’s newfound earthquake problem I hadn’t considered.
The gist: The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is increasingly concerned about earthquakes’ effects on nearby Arcadia Lake Dam and other dams. If the “high hazard” earthen dam in Arcadia Lake fails, there would be a “a probable loss of human life” and widespread property damage.
An Oklahoma County report also said the nearby Route 66 town of Luther also would be flooded.
When the dam was built in 1986, its designers didn’t consider the 4.0- and even 5.0-magnitude earthquakes that have plagued central Oklahoma shortly after injection wells started pumping used fracking fluids deep underground. It’s these injection wells that have drawn increasing blame for Oklahoma earthquakes.
Oklahoma once averaged just 50 earthquakes a year. In 2013, the number was more than 2,600.
In response to the new problem, KFOR reported:
Last year, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board passed a new rule requiring an unscheduled dam inspection if a magnitude 5.0 earthquake strikes within 50 miles of any dam structure.
Earthquakes also are the big reason I hold reservations about the running of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Oklahoma, including under the Route 66 town of Stroud. Keystone’s own risk-assessment report from 2006 didn’t inspire much confidence. It said Oklahoma was not a “high earthquake hazard area” — something folks in Lincoln County would very likely dispute.
I’m not sure how much an Arcadia Dam failure would affect the town’s two biggest attractions — POPS and the 1898 Round Barn. During an 8- to 10-inch rainstorm a few years ago that flooded almost the entire valley, both POPS and the barn were on high enough ground they weren’t directly affected. But a dam failure is a whole ‘nother ballgame.