Rural Omaha landowners discontented with new flood study
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Two government agencies are collaborating on a three-year, $3 million study of flood risks in the Omaha metro area.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District are both authorized to dam creeks on residential land for reservoirs to help lessen urban flood risks. The return of the corps brings into play the federal government’s deep pockets, the Omaha World-Herald reported .
“We’ve been battling this for nearly 50 years,” said Shawn Melotz, president of the Papio Valley Preservation Association. The 500-member group is dedicated to protecting the natural resources of the Papillion Creek watershed.
“We’re fearful, because there is a history of mistrust for both organizations,” Melotz said. “My parents’ generation dealt with the corps, and my generation dealt with the NRD.”
First it was the Army Corps of Engineers, beginning in the late 1960s. Back-to-back years of devastating floods in Omaha that decade prompted calls for flood-control reservoirs. The worst flooding happened in June 1964. Seven people died and the damage incurred was worth at least $48 million, adjusted for inflation.
With the Flood Control Act of 1968, the Corps of Engineers answered with a suggestion to build 21 dams in the Papillion Creek watershed.
In 2004, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District revived the idea of building dams. It announced an ambitious proposal that included two large reservoirs that would flood the Big Papio valley in Washington County and affect about 100 landowners. That led to a political battle between the NRD and landowners.
John Winkler, Natural Resources District general manager, said his agency has “no appetite” for a similar fight with this flood study.
The NRD and corps estimate that nearly $2 billion worth of property has been built in the metro area’s 500-year floodplain.
Winkler said he believes the NRD generally can move forward without irritating property-owners because people are asking the district to buy them out.
Both agencies held public meetings recently to solicit public participation as the flood study launches.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com