The University of Arizona

Bailey Stephenson | CLIMAS

Fellow, Climate Assessment for the Southwest

2021 recipient of the Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) Environment & Society Graduate Fellows Program.

Title: Responding to Flooding in Ottawa County, OK

Moriah Bailey Stephenson has received training in participant-observation, archival, and oral history research methods from the School of Anthropology, History Department, and Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Drawing on this training, Stephenson is collaborating with Local Environmental Action Demanded (LEAD), an environmental justice organization in Ottawa County, Oklahoma, to create a flooding response resource for Ottawa County residents. Ottawa County is located in the far northeastern corner of present-day Oklahoma and is made up of the territories of the Quapaw, Seneca-Cayuga, Miami, Modoc, Wyandotte, Ottawa, Peoria, Shawnee, Eastern Shawnee, and Cherokee tribal nations. Flooding has threatened communities in Ottawa County, OK since the construction of the Pensacola Dam in 1940 which led to the creation of Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees (south of Ottawa County). The recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2020 will exacerbate already dangerous flooding by allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to increase lake water levels. This project investigates the question: How have residents in Ottawa County, Oklahoma grappled with and responded to flooding risks in the past, and how do residents continue to navigate flooding risks in the present?  In collaboration with LEAD, Stephenson will compile interviews focused on flooding and responses to flooding, and treating residents as experts, Stephenson will create a resource for residents who are at heightened risk for flooding due to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for the year 2020.