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Catherine Beasley is interning with the City’s Communications Department this summer. A senior at Missouri State University, she is writing a blog series about the unsung heroes that serve the Broken Arrow community.
Have you ever seen something and knew it was important but had no idea how or why?
I was hit with this recently, when I shadowed Broken Arrow’s "Aquaman" and Floodplain Manager Jeff Bigby and his two team members, Greg Kirby and Tom Tolbert, in Stormwater and Floodplain Management.
I’ve always been an advocate for clean water, yet knew very little about it. I knew pollution was affecting the water we drink and the beaches we swim in, but I didn’t know the nitty-gritty details.
Jeff helped put the details into place for me. There are so many little things within our everyday lives that are given no thought but affect different portions of our water supply and habitats.
Unfortunately, Jeff doesn’t control where the water goes and he can’t breathe underwater, he does, however help keep it clean and safe for Broken Arrow’s residents.
To give us a behind the scenes look, Jeff let me shadow him for a day to see all he does and what goes into Stormwater and Floodplain Management.
“What I really hate to see are people devastated from floods.”
There are two main focuses within Jeff’s and his team’s job. The first is Floodplain Management and the other Stormwater Management.
Floodplain Management focuses on keeping us and our homes safe from flooding and damage. While those living around Aquaman don’t have to worry about flooding, Jeff saves the City by making sure people don’t build houses in unsafe areas, such as high-risk flood areas, and spreading education on how to make your property safe from flooding.
On the other hand, Stormwater Management maintains pollution-free creeks and streams, keeping them healthy for people and animals to enjoy, as well as educating the community. I don’t know Aquaman’s exact thoughts on pollution within water sources, but I am confident that he would be proud of the actions Jeff is taking to keep his community safe.
“You can see the Arkansas River through the other side of the trees.”
Broken Arrow was established on higher ground as a railroad city. Fast forward to the late ‘70s, Broken Arrow put in an aggressive Floodplain Management Program that preserved the natural wooded and green floodplain areas, while also naturally reducing flooding and pollutants.
Unfortunately, like every city, flooding impacts Broken Arrow. Houses and neighborhoods, including the Indian Springs Sports Complex, were recently flooded by pipes (pumping water through neighborhoods) as well as creeks and streams. The citizens of Atlantis can’t protect Broken Arrow, with this in mind, being prepared and speaking with Stormwater and Floodplain Management is important. By using sandbags, elevating your property, purchasing flood insurance and not driving when there are flash floods can all come into play when keeping you and your family safe.
“Outreach is the best part of the job.”
Jeff and his team of heroes paired up with Broken Arrow High School teachers and students to create an educational milestone and community gem, turning the once known Adams Creek detention pond into an ecology park called Tiger Creek Nature Park.
Participants of the Together Project created a wetland in the shape of “BA”. They researched and tested the water to find out which deep-rooted plants were best suited to filter out pollutants and algae that deplete the oxygen within the pond and kill the wildlife that Atlantis and Broken Arrow need.
Jeff’s division is also overseeing the installation of a rain garden above the pond. A rain garden will remove toxins from stormwater before reaching the pond, creating a healthier environment and slowing down the flash of a heavy flow of water. With this project, Jeff organized class demonstrations within the high school to show the importance of the new rain garden.
The importance of the human race and keeping them safe is not lost on Jeff or Aquaman. This outreach program begins with students, the upcoming generation of leaders. Tiger Creek Nature Park plugs Broken Arrow High School students into the environmental world most never see.
Several disciplines are on display, such as chemistry, zoology, and biology. As the program grows, Jeff envisions including artistic disciplines including web design, social media and print media to promote events and the work students accomplish.
This past Earth Day, Jeff and his team created an artwork competition between high school students for “do not litter” signs that were recently installed in the surrounding areas. These high school outreach programs educate the young, help them find their passion, provide an amazing way to build their resumes and create a sense of ownership and pride within our community.
“Lots of places have pedestrian trails around the natural flood plains to enjoy nature.”
Our society has changed from 10-15 years ago when environmental awareness was low. However, between movies and social media, more people have become aware and want to recycle and control pollution.
Jeff receives calls about environmental problems now more than ever. People know more: they shouldn’t blow grass into the street, chlorinated pool water should be drained into a sanitary sewer system rather than a neighbor’s yard.
However, our growing knowledge does not mean our pollution days are over. Many small things in our daily lives cause environmental nightmares: lawn clippings, silt from construction, dumpster bacteria, fertilizer and pet waste all drain into the storm sewers around our homes. These run down into streams and creeks, creating an unsafe habitat.
When a certain body of water is polluted, Jeff and his team investigate it. However, it’s tough to remove pollutants once they’re in the water, they don’t have powers to pick out individual bacteria and pollution.
That’s where YOU come in. Three people can only educate so many. A whole community can make a cultural shift. Help Broken Arrow’s Aquaman and talk to your neighbors and friends, become flood safe, build a rain garden and educate yourself on how you can stop pollution.