Flooding again restricts travel in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa

Flooding again restricts travel in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa
Flooding in the Nebraska City area in March forced some major roadways to be shut down. Highway 2, which had been closed for 56 days after the mid-March flooding, is closed again. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Add Interstate 680 to the list of Missouri River crossings closed because of flooding.

A detour is in place that directs I-680 traffic onto Interstate 80.

In addition, U.S. Highway 34 south of Offutt Air Force Base closed Tuesday evening and Nebraska Highway 2 at Nebraska City closed Saturday. A detour also is in place off I-29 between 25th Street and 16th Street in Council Bluffs.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Iowa transportation officials closed I-29 in both directions from U.S. Highway 34 to the Missouri border. The current detour is U.S. 71 from Missouri to I-80 in Iowa.

Numerous county roads along rivers and streams closed Tuesday.

Among the major routes at risk of closing:

» Highway 275 in Nebraska has water on it north of Nickerson, according to state officials. It’s down to one lane a few miles south of West Point.

» Nebraska officials were watching Highway 75 north of Plattsmouth near the Platte River, said Tim Weander, Omaha area district engineer for the Nebraska Department of Transportation.





Rising Missouri River prompts more emergency actions, shuts off another bridge

The rising Missouri River has cut off access to the Plattsmouth bridge on the Iowa side and has prompted more emergency action in Mills County.

Officials have closed Lambert Avenue, which connects to the bridge on the Iowa side. It was one of several closures because of flooding, according to the Mills County Emergency Management Office.

Officials are shoring up protections around the Glenwood Municipal District Water Treatment Plant. A temporary flood barrier has been erected around the plant and two generators have been placed on site for emergency power.

Vinton’s Campground has removed all its trailers, and MidAmerican Energy has shut off power in the affected area west of Interstate 29.

Residents of Pacific Junction and the surrounding area have been advised to keep an eye on flooding and be prepared to evacuate.

Goodwill customers help flood victims

Goodwill Omaha on Friday will present a check to the Red Cross from proceeds of a Round It Up Campaign.

Starting March 15, Goodwill invited all customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar to benefit flood victims. The check to be presented Friday is for $11,896.88.

Rising Missouri River, heavy rains close access road to Indian Cave Park

A mud slide caused by heavy rains has prompted closure of the access road to the cave at Indian Cave State Park. A portion of the bluff slid onto the road, according to Nebraska Game & Parks Commission.

Also, portions of hiking trails adjacent to the landslide area will be closed until they can be assessed for safety.

The access road to the boat ramp also has closed.

It’s not known how quickly the park will be able to reopen its facilities.

Highway from Mullen to Merritt Reservoir recreation area closed temporarily

Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area in Cherry County is only accessible via Nebraska Highway 97 from Valentine.

The highway north from Mullen to Merritt closed after rain runoff covered the road.

Students help document efforts by others to assist in flood recovery

Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in partnership with Nebraska Extension, have begun recording stories of young people who are helping others recover from flooding.

The collaboration between the College of Journalism and Mass Communications and Extension will result in student-produced news coverage of the service work by youth.

In May, students from the combined Meridian-Tobias Future Farmers of America chapter removed debris, cleared land and repaired fence posts and barbed wire near the Loup River in Columbus, while journalism students documented their work.

Dozens of University of Nebraska students will spend their summer taking part in flood recovery serviceships statewide. For more information or to submit story ideas, go to www.stormcloudsovertheprairie.org.

Interlude Lounge to host flood fund-raiser June 8

The Interlude Lounge will host a golf tournament and an outdoor block party to benefit flood victims through the Valley Days Flood Relief Foundation on June 8.

The tournament begins at noon at Elmwood 18-Hole Golf Course​ a​nd includes free food from local restaurants, a chance to win a $55,00 truck and pin prizes. After the tournament, golfers will go to the Interlude Lounge where the after-party begins at 6 p.m. featuring live music and food trucks.

The block party is a 21-and-over event.

The Valley Days Flood Relief Foundation will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the golf tournament, and the Interlude Lounge will donate 20 percent of sales from the after-party.

“The floods hurt so many people across the area, including my own family,” said Scott Piotrowski, owner of the Interlude Lounge. “Raising some money is the least we can do. There are families that still need direct assistance and it’s important to us to stick by our neighbors and help out.”

Benefit concert raises $4,100 for flood relief

A recent benefit concert for flood relief near Linoma Beach and featuring a band called “The Linoma Mashers” raised $4,100.

One of the concert organizers, Julie Miller, recently presented a check of the proceeds to the Ashland Ministerial Alliance.

Other bands performing at the event, held at the Cellar 426 winery in Ashland, were the Prairie Gators and Charlie Burton & Or What.

World-Herald staff writer Paul Hammel contributed to this report.

Roads built into Platte River blamed for flood threat; railroads cite rare fish protections

Railroad repairs of flood-damaged bridges over the Platte River are being blamed by some residents of a nearby private development for causing new flooding in their Hanson’s Lakes neighborhood.

At issue are a set of roads Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway built into the Platte River to fix their parallel bridges heavily damaged by historic flooding in mid-March. Residents say the roads, immediately downstream of their homes, acted as dams and caused this week’s rising Platte River to back into their neighborhood.

Union Pacific and BNSF say federal protections of endangered species, in this case the spawning of the pallid sturgeon, prevented them from removing the roads as soon as repairs were complete. Union Pacific completed its repairs on May 14. BNSF completed its repairs on May 12.

But the federal agency that regulates construction in the nation’s waterways says there’s more to the story.

Neither Union Pacific nor BNSF Railway got the required permits to build the roads, said Thomas O’Hara, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha.

Nor did they properly build the roads, the corps has said. And once the unauthorized roads were installed in the river, O’Hara said, the corps couldn’t allow the roads to be removed in a manner that would violate two federal laws — the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

Thursday evening, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they have told Union Pacific approval wasn’t needed to remove the causeway.

There’s little about this issue that the railroads and federal agencies agree on — except that now the roads need to be removed. BNSF began removing its road on Wednesday night, U.P. on Thursday morning.

There are three key points of disagreement:

Whether the roads were authorized: BNSF says a permit wasn’t required because the work qualified for an exemption under emergency provisions. The corps says a permit was required and the emergency provisions didn’t apply. U.P. says it got verbal permission from the corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and submitted a permit application. The corps says U.P. didn’t complete the permit process. U.P. says the corps didn’t rule on the permit until this week (the corps rejected the permit).

Whether the roads were properly built: According to the corps, neither railroad installed the proper amount of culverts to adequately allow water to flow through. BNSF responds that it went beyond the required culverts and notched the roads to allow water to flow through.

How long the roads needed to remain in place: Raquel Espinoza, spokeswoman for Union Pacific, said the railroad has asked numerous times for permission to remove its road, including as recently as last weekend, when heavy rains were forecast. She said the railroad was concerned that the road posed a flood threat.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife told us in writing the causeway had to stay in place until June 30.”

In its Thursday evening statement, Fish and Wildlife said: “While it would typically be our recommendation not to conduct river activities during the pallid sturgeon’s spawning cycle, in emergency situations the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can and does exercise flexibility in the interest of human health and safety which is allowed for under the Endangered Species Act and thus we have communicated to Union Pacific that they do not need any authorization to remove the causeway and they have indicated they would begin removal immediately.”

Several major rail lines throughout the region have been damaged by flooding, raising significant issues not only for the transportation of goods, but also for the cost of doing so.

In terms of this week’s flooding, the Platte River rose above a levee near Hanson’s Lakes. Residents and contractors worked for two days to sandbag the levee and otherwise shore up flood protections.

In spite of those efforts, low-lying homes that had previously been flooded took on water again, said Don Kelly, chairman of the Sarpy County Board and the elected representative for that area.

“My sense is there would have been flooding if everything had been done right,” said Kelly, who has been to the site three times this week. “I think everybody was trying to do the right thing, but everybody was working inside their lanes, and sometimes those objectives don’t mesh well together.”

Residents are glad to see the railroads removing rock.

“The river has come down, that’s a good sign,” said Josh Tedder, who has property there and whose business, Tedder Construction, helped with the levee work. “The railroad is pulling the rock out of the river. That has to be helping.”