ON the final day of this year's legislative session, members approved three bond issue proposals that will benefit the state in the long term. Included in the package was a rather innocuous, but important, expenditure for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The commission will receive $25 million to help repair and replace flood-control dams that are scattered across rural Oklahoma. The agency is responsible for the upkeep of these 2,015 dams, which were built by the federal government beginning in the 1940s but which are maintained with state dollars. Members of the conservation commission made a compelling argument in asking lawmakers for help: During last year's soaking wet spring and summer, they estimate flood-control dams prevented more than $300 million in potential flood damage to communities, roads and agricultural land. Two of the dams are now in need of a total overhaul and 27 suffered extensive damage. Many of these dams have outlived their 50-year life expectancy; in the next decade, it's expected that about 1,300 will have reached that point. A rebuilt dam will have a new life expectancy of 100 years. There are now 189 "high-hazard” watershed dams under the agency's purview — so designated because homes are located downstream. Fifty municipalities, 265 state bridges and 92 schools are served by these flood-control dams. The commission sought $30 million from lawmakers. The $25 million it received was part of a package that included identical sums for bridge and dam improvements on the Arkansas River in Tulsa County and for an Indian cultural center under construction in Oklahoma City. Those projects in the state's two largest metropolitan areas will be more visible, but the benefits to rural Oklahoma resulting from this cash infusion for flood-control dams will be every bit as significant.