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Old Man River
This weekend, the community of Peru will celebrate “Old Man River Days,” which was established after citizens of the community banded together to save the town from approaching floodwaters in 1943. Peru has a long history of winning battles against Old Man River, and it has done so with strong support from the federal government. This week’s column discusses how the federal government can step up to help our region recover from devastating flooding in 2019, which has now extended itself into 2020.
Just over two weeks ago, I spent the afternoon touring the Peru bottoms. Farmers were planting crops, roads were repaired, and life was beginning to have glimpses of normalcy again in an area that was devastated by unprecedented flooding in 2019. Unfortunately, that glimpse of normalcy was washed away after a few days of rain by the Missouri River. The river is attempting to re-route itself through Northeast Nemaha County when it reaches 16’ at Nebraska City, which is a full two feet below minor flood stage.
Responsibility for this year’s spring flooding falls directly on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Many of you are likely familiar with the ongoing dispute regarding the USACE’s refusal to repair the large levee breach that occurred during the 2019 floods. This year’s flooding is not due to the damaged levee, which protects Northeast Nemaha County. 2020’s flooding is due to damage along the Missouri River’s bank, causing the river to re-channel itself on dry land if it rises even a few inches beyond its average flow.
USACE is legally required to maintain the channel of the Missouri River. That channel was compromised in our area during the 2019 floods, which damaged the river bank and caused the river to partially re-route itself through our district. Water is currently free-flowing through the hole in the river bank, even as the Missouri River is two feet below flood stage. USACE committed to repairing the damage, but has delayed the project indefinitely from its scheduled start date in January 2020. Continued delays are not only devastating for our landowners, but also increases the cost of repair as the new channel carves more deeply into the river bank and surrounding land.
I am reaching out to District 1’s representatives in Washington, D.C. to hold USACE accountable to complete legally-required repairs in our area. Our district depends heavily on this fertile farmland- which, prior to 2019, had not been flooded since the 1950s. This is valuable agricultural land that needs to be put back into reliable production.
Old Man River is a formidable opponent, but it has been proven time and time again that major flooding in our area can usually be kept at bay by infrastructure investments and timely repairs.
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