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This week’s column will be dedicated to our ongoing flooding issues along the Missouri River. While the Missouri River floodplain occupies only a small amount of District 1, its flooding has far-reaching impacts throughout our part of the state.
There are three bridges in District 1 which cross the Missouri River. Highway 2 in Nebraska City has been reopened and is currently being raised on the Missouri side of the river. This project was initiated to help prevent repeats of summer flooding in 2011 and 2019, in which all bridges across the Missouri between Omaha and St. Joseph were closed. The Missouri River bridge at Highway 136 at Brownville is projected to have an October 31 opening, but that date is tentative based on weather conditions. Highway 159 at Rulo was reopened in early September after a 177-day closure, but was closed again after the most recent river rises. Damage to Highway 159 on the Missouri side of the bridge will need to be assessed after the river recedes. Closure of these bridges have a crippling effect on our area’s economy, from severely limiting commuter traffic in towns with bridges to limiting employee access to their jobs across the river. Additional infrastructure impacted includes the Steamboat Trace Trail, with five to six miles of its 22-mile route either washed away or still underwater.
A community facing some of the most costly and longest-term damage in Nebraska is also located in District 1. Peru’s levee failed for the first time since 1952 during the initial March flooding event. Six months later, 8,000 acres of land remain underwater. Several pieces critical to the town’s infrastructure also remain surrounded by water, including the town’s water treatment facility and sewer lagoons. A temporary water treatment facility is operating, but is only designed to last for three years. Before those three years elapse, Peru community leaders will need to find a long-term solution for the town’s water supply. Another uncertainty is whether or not the Corps of Engineers will repair Peru’s levee, which it claims had fallen to the Corps’ “inactive” list and is therefore ineligible for repair. However, the only reason the Peru levee remained on the “inactive” list was a failure to fill out a single set of paperwork. Thus, a $2,000 bureaucratic hoop is the only reason the levee is ineligible for a repair estimated to cost between $50-$60 million. The Corps have repaired other “inactive” levees with far greater deficiencies along I-29. If the levee is not repaired, the Peru river bottoms will become a seasonal wetland, compromising critical infrastructure and some of the best farmland in the area. I have joined forces with state and local leaders to prepare a plan for Peru’s future, and am also working closely with our federal delegation to exhaust all options to repair the levee.
I am fighting for all Southeast Nebraska communities impacted by this year’s flooding. Our communities face an uphill climb to recovery, but I will be working with our towns every step of the way.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at: Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: email@example.com.