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Levees and Leverage: A Win for Southeast Nebraska
Life in Southeast Nebraska was turned upside down one year ago as levees were decimated and thousands of acres of land were inundated with floodwaters for months. As Southeast Nebraskans always do, we stood strong and refused to accept anything besides a full recovery for our region. One of the biggest, and most expensive, hurdles faced by District 1 was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s inability to repair the Missouri River levee at Peru. We needed assistance from our federal representatives to repair the levee. Last week, Southeast Nebraska got the outcome it needed in Washington, D.C., thanks to Congressman Adrian Smith.
When the Peru levee failed in March 2019, the Corps refused to repair the levee because it had recently fallen to “inactive” status. Statutory language tied the hands of the Corps, preventing them from starting the repair project. This left our area holding the bag on a multi-million dollar repair to protect critical infrastructure for Northeast Nemaha County. My office and Peru residents explored all options for the levee repair, and we concluded that adjusting language in federal statutes to permit repair of inactive levees by the Corps was the only realistic solution. We reached out to Congressman Adrian Smith for his help.
Congressman Smith listened to the concerns of our region and took the time to tour flood damage in Southeast Nebraska. On that visit, our message to Congressman Smith was clear: we needed his help to repair Peru’s levee. Congressman Smith’s office drafted language permitting inactive levees to become eligible for Corps repair if they paid for the repairs necessary to bring the levee up to “active” status prior to the flooding. This language was included in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is a biennial bill to authorize funding for infrastructure investments. 2020’s WRDA bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 29.
What does this mean for Southeast Nebraska in layman’s terms? WRDA’s passage is a big step in the right direction to repairing Peru’s levee. This new language means the Corps is now able to repair the Peru levee if certain conditions are met. There are still many steps left before bulldozers appear to break ground, but for the first time in a long time, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that the Peru levee will be repaired. Last week’s victory was a team effort between Congressman Smith and state and local officials. The tenacity of Southeast Nebraskans is paying dividends for our region on the federal level.
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 .