Some of the most important discussions about weather challenges come on “blue sky days,” those in which there are few if any clouds in the sky.

Although they hope the severe weather situations will never come, several local, state and federal agency leaders took the opportunity to gather on a recent blue sky day for a tour of the North Deer Creek Watershed Dam No. 1M, known as Wes Watkins Reservoir.

During disasters agencies and various government officials are called on to work together in an effective, yet quick manner to provide safety for citizens and property. That process always seems to go smoother if those agencies and officials are already acquainted.

On Aug. 16, 2019, those gathering for the tour included: Mike Hill, Pottawatomie County Development Authority (PCDA) board member; Cody Roe, City of McLoud Parks Director; Dr. Joe Taron, PCDA Board co-Chairman;  Dell Kerbs, State Representative, House District 26; State Senator Ron Sharp, District 17; Nick Jones, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist; Shawn Fleming, NRCS Resource Conservationist (Shawnee office); Steve Shultz, PCDA Project Manager; Buck Day, City of McLoud City Manager and Benny Milam, Lake Patrol Officer, City of McLoud.

After introductions, participants of the tour were given a history of the project.

North Deer Creek Watershed Dam No. 1M, known as Wes Watkins Reservoir, is located one mile south of McLoud, Oklahoma in Pottawatomie County. Planning began on Feb. 16, 1977. The work plan was signed on April 22, 1986. There were several key dates in 1993, including a ground breaking ceremony on Oct. 22. The dedication of the dam (the Principal Spillway was closed) on Aug. 22, 1996.

The dam was constructed by the PCDA and the Shawnee Conservation District with the assistance of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the United States Department of Agriculture NRCS Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program.

The dam was constructed for flood control, municipal water and recreation with the PCDA paying 80 percent of the construction cost of the dam and the NRCS paying 20 percent. PCDA and NRCS each paid 50 percent of the recreational development around the lake.

Municipal water supplies from the lake are allocated to some cities in the area, and there are recreational facilities around the lake.

The dam provides flood protection for some of the most productive bottomland farms in the county and for the City of Dale. The dam provides more than $2 million in average annual benefits. It provides flood protection for many farms and ranches; reduces sedimentation by 92,000 tons of soil annually; protects four bridges and several miles of county roads; and has created or enhanced over 300 acres of wetlands.

On the day of the tour, participants heard about the partnership with NRCS and the cooperation of the PCDA, City of Shawnee, City of Tecumseh, City of McLoud and NRCS. The aspects of managing a municipal watershed site were covered as was the purpose of upstream flood control structures. The group toured the recreational area and shared about the economic importance, including tourism, water supply and recreation.

There are so many different facets. This includes the presence of police patrol to provide a safe environment and allow for quiet hours during holidays resulting in an enjoyable destination for families.

The group also took time to discuss the control of cedar and maintaining fence lines.

Again, this tour was just a good opportunity for leaders to become not only more acquainted with this very important watershed dam, but also with each other.