25M in Levee Improvements Needed to Protect Offutt AFB

first_imgThe state of Nebraska, DOD and the communities neighboring Offutt Air Force Base are being asked to contribute to a $25 million levee improvement project needed to protect the installation from flooding.The cities of Bellevue and Omaha, and Sarpy County are each being asked for $2.3 million for the project, which would increase the height of 19 miles of levees along the Missouri River by two feet. The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, which is spearheading the effort, has pledged $4 million. The district is asking the state to pitch in $10 million, and DOD for $4 million, reported the Bellevue Leader.The improvements are mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) even though the Army Corps of Engineers, which built the levees in the 1970s and 1980s, says they meet existing standards. FEMA ordered the upgrades after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Neither FEMA nor the Army Corps is willing to help pay for the improvements, said John Winkler, general manager for the natural resources district.If the levees are not raised, much of Offutt Air Force Base would be regarded as sitting in a floodplain, according to Winkler. In addition, thousands of acres south of the installation would be rendered undevelopable.“The longer we wait and delay the more expensive the project becomes,” Winkler told the Sarpy County Board last month. “Instead of a $25 million project, we’re going to soon be talking a $30 million project, a $35 million project, until a point in time where we’ll be unable to do it because no one will have the funds,” he said.Commissioner Don Kelly said the importance of Offutt to Sarpy County requires the county to pitch in, but he asked Winkler to expand the number of communities asked to contribute to the project.“I think we need to cast the net a little bit wider,” he said. “There are as many people that work out of Offutt Air Force Base that leave Bellevue at the end of the day and go off to residences in the county, or in Papillion, or down in Cass County, or over in Mills County or up in Omaha,” he said. Dan Cohen AUTHORlast_img

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