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Senator Tom Brewer
I would like to use this weekly update to share a “good news” story about government. It does my heart good to share something positive and hopeful. All things considered this is a small victory, but for me personally, my staff, and the family involved in this story— it matters a lot.
In the 1970’s, a county in my district built a North-South blacktop road through the Sandhill’s. The road spans many hills and valleys for over 60 miles. Along the path of this road are many wet meadows with culverts. This valley in particular was not built with a culvert to drain the valley. With the new roadbed acting as a dam across this particular valley, the seasonally wet meadow turned into a large permanent lake. What used to be a hay meadow yielding about 1,500 round bales a year was now under water. By 1983, the road became a state highway and was put under the jurisdiction of the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).
The family who owns the land complained to their elected officials for the next 50 years or so. Property Tax Assessors, County Board members, NDOT officials, Governors, US Senators, Members of Congress, and Nebraska State Senators including several of my predecessors. The family contacted me about this problem shortly after I took office two years ago.
My staff and I began trying to figure out how we would get a culvert installed under an existing state highway so the lake in the valley can drain. We discovered that the problem began because of the deliberate omission of the culvert. The reason for this was caused by an old feud between a rancher and a hired man from an adjoining ranch. We learned the US Corps of Engineers may be involved because the man-made lake created by the road could potentially be considered a protected wetland. The local NDOT district engineer needed to be consulted to engineer a solution. We were also informed that the NDOT has a construction plan going decades into the future, and how funding and priority are determined for different projects across the State. We quickly realized this is not as simple as just getting a length of culvert, a backhoe, closing the road, and getting to work. There are “a lot of cooks in the kitchen” when it comes to a project like this. We have talked and met with every one of them to address this issue.
Kyle Schneweis is the Director of the Nebraska Department of Transportation. After visiting with him he actually drove out to the Sandhill’s, stood on the road and saw the lake, and visited with the ranch family. The culvert will be installed in 2020. Better 50 years late than never. Thank you Director Schneweis. The Governor couldn’t have chosen a better person for this important job.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at;email@example.com. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.