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McGee Creek Project
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General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

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The McGee Creek Project was designed and constructed using the metric system of measurement The project is a multipurpose water resource development. The project, as authorized includes an earthfilled dam and dike, an open cut `country` spillway, river outlet works, multiple level outlet works for making releases of the project water supply, and the impoundment of water in a reservoir that covers about 3,800 acres at conservation pool elevation.

Facility Descriptions
McGee Creek Dam and Reservoir

McGee Creek Dam is a zoned earthfill structure 1,968.5 feet long and 160.7 feet high across McGee Creek. The dike is also an earthfill structure about 4,800 feet long and 59 feet high, blocking several saddles on the west side of the reservoir rim. The upstream slopes of the dam and dike in contact with the reservoir are protected from wave action and erosion by a riprap blanket. Other surfaces are protected from erosion by a grass cover.

The spillway is located in a small saddle west of the dam. It is a `country` spillway so called because it is a simple cut through the reservoir rim without concrete lining or gates. It is 1,312 feet long and about 750 feet wide, designed to pass the inflow design flood with ample freeboard on the dam and dikes. Two concrete sill blocks have been placed across the spillway about 500 feet apart to prevent erosion of the channel and to maintain crest elevation. The remainder of the spillway has a protective covering of grass planted on a foot of top soil. The project design contemplates operation of the spillway only on very rare occasions.

The reservoir extends about 14 miles up McGee Creek and about 12 miles up to Potapo Creek when the lake is at conservation pool elevation to form a reservoir containing 103,000 acre-feet of water after 100 years of sedimant has been deposited. An additional 86,000 of storage is provided to store floods. The lake has a maximum depth of about 116 feet at the damsite with the water at conservation pool level. There is about 85 miles of shoreline.

The reservoir has been partially cleared to provide for safety of the dam structure, quality of water for municipal purposes, flood protection from backwater, operation and maintenance, and elimination of hazards to the public. This clearing provides sufficient open water surface areas for boating, water skiing, and fishing by trolling. Sufficient timber and brush extend above the water surface in uncleared areas to alert water skiers and speed boaters. Areas of standing timber and brush are excellent for fish concentration and protection of waterfowl. Brush piles are located in the cleared area to further enhance fish habitat.

River Outlet Works

The river outlet works are located in the dam on the east side of the river channel and will control all but the most servere flooding conditions. They consist of an intake structure, three conduits about 15 feet in diameter, a stilling basin on the downstream end, and the associated gates and controls. A discharge channel leads from the stilling basin to McGee Creek. The river outlet works has a maximum capacity of about 6,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) and with the flood control storage provided in the reservoir can handle anything short of a major flood. The spillway with a maximum capacity of about 50,000 cfs combined with the river outlet works pass large floods past the dam without endangering the structure.

Municipal Outlet Works

A municipal outlet works has been constructed to convey flows from the reservoir to the pumping plant. This outlet works consists of an intake tower with three gates spaced to allow withdrawal of the best quality water from the reservoir and a single tube with gates and controls leading to the pumping plant. A bypass discharges 11 cfs into McGee Creek continuously to provide a `live` stream downstream from the reservoir for fish and wildlife mitigation. The municipal outlet works has a capacity of about 150 cfs at the minimum reservoir surface elevation.

The pumping plant is situated at the toe of the dam and connected to the reservoir by the municipal outlet works. It is equipped with variable speed horizontal centrifugal pumps capable of lifting 140 cfs of water to a maximum height of 166 feet. A concrete pipeline 6 feet in diameter and about 18 miles long connects the pumping plant with the Oklahoma City pumping plant at Lake Atoka. A concrete surge tank about 90 feet high is near the pumping plant to control hydraulic surges in the pipeline to receive flows from the pumping plant. The operation of the pumping plant is controlled by the water level in the regulating tank. Flow from the tank to the terminal tank near the Atoka Pumping Plant is by gravity. A turnout is located near the City of Atoka Treatment Plant for use by local project sponsors.

Operating Agencies

The McGee Creek Authority became responsible for the care, operation and maintenance of the project on September 1, 1990. Public Law 101-514, dated November 5, 1990 (Title II section 205) authorized the Secretary to enter into a contract with McGee Creek Authority accepting final payment.

The Project was paid out on October 30, 1992, by the McGee Creek Authority.
McGee Creek has 85,194 acre feet of capacity assigned to flood control. The McGee Creek Project has provided an accumulated $1,939,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.

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At one time or another, Spain, France, and England claimed the territory that is now Oklahoma. Oklahoma's early economy was closely tied to French traders and trappers who came to the area in the early 1700's.

The City of Atoka was founded in the 1850's and named for Captain Atoka Oshlatubee, Chief of the Pushmataha district, who came to the area in 1833. His name was derived from the Choctaw `hitoka` or `Hetoka` meaning `ball ground.` The county was first named Shappaway and later in 1885 changed to Atoka. Chief Atoka built the first log cabin in Atoka in 1850, where he later operated a stage station. A federal court was established in Atoka in the 1850's.

Oklahoma City sprang into being on April 22, 1889, with a population of 10,000. A month later a city government was established. In 1910 the state capitol was relocated from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. With the arrival of the new railroads, flour and cotton mills were established, meat processing plants were founded, and the city continued to grow. Oklahoma City has become the center of Oklahoma's rapidly developing transportation, industrial and education complex.

Agriculture became prominent in Atoka County following statehood. Some forested areas were cleared and row crops planted during the 1930's. Liverstock and pasture have increased since 1940, and beef cattle have become the most important source of farm income. Commerical forests cover about 50 percent of Atoka County.


Groups of Oklahoma citizens have long expressed an interest in the McGee Creek Project. Officials of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB), Southern Oklahoma Development Association (SODA), and Oklahoma City requested a study by the Bureau of Reclamation. The investigation was fully supported by the City and County of Atoka and other county and State interests. The Corps of Engineers had previously studied the McGee Creek site as a flood control project and development of McGee Creek was formerly part of the Oklahoma State Water Plan. Because of some conflict with flood control benefits of another project, the Corps of Engineers abandoned the study. Reclamation used data furnished by the Corps where appropriate.

During public hearings held in 1968, Oklahoma City requested the McGee Creek Project be moved up from long range planning to short range planning. The City of Atoka, Atoka County, Southern Oklahoma Development Trust and Oklahoma City filed for the water rights on McGee Creek which were granted by OWRB.


Public Law 93-122 authorized the McGee Creek feasibility investigations.. Before a feasibility report was complete, Congress passed Public Law 94-423 (Title VII) on September 28, 1976, authorizing construcion, operation, and maintenance of the project in accordance with Federal Reclamation Laws. Provisions of this title include the purposes of storing, regulating and conveying water for municipal and industrial use, conserving and developing fish and wildlife resources, providing outdoor recreation opprotunities, developing a natural scenic recreation area, developing a wildlife management area and controlling floods.


McGee Creek Dam and Reservoir were authorized and constructed to supply municipal and Industrial water to the McGee Creek Authority, as well as downstream flood protection, water-based recreation, fish and wildlife enhancement, and environmental quality purposes. Multiple contracts were awarded from 1979 to 1981 for various activities prior to the Dam and Dike Construction contract awarded to Claterbos, Inc. of Astoria, Oregon in 1982.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the dam site on July 10, 1982. Speakers were: Governor George Nigh of Oklahoma, Congressman Wes Watkins, Commissioner of reclamation Robert Broadbent, Regional Director Darrell Webber and McGee Creek Trust Authority Official Haskell Magridge. The event was attended by numerous state officials and an estimated 600 people. An explosive charge was discharged on top of the right abutment on the McGee Creek damsite as part of the Groundbreaking ceremony.

By December 1983, 72.2% of the work was accomplished on the dam with only 51.3% of the time elapsed. Project dedication ceremonies were held August 22, 1986. Bureau of Reclamation personnel met with McGee Creek Authority officials in February and March of 1988 to conduct `turnover` inspections of the Project dam, dike and pumping plant facilities and the aqueduct.

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Municipal and Industrial

Oklahoma City, Soda, Atoka County, and the City of Atoka are provided with a supplemental municipal and industrial water supply from the McGee Project.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

Fish and wildlife mitigation includes the implementation of an 11 cfs permanent flow in McGee Creek, along with partial clearing of the reservoir area and, other enhancements such as brush piles and `tire reefs`. McGee Creek Reservoir provides recreation in the area.

For specific information about recreation at McGee Creek Reservoir, click on the name below:

McGee Creek Reservoir

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Last updated: Apr 05, 2013