Traffic on Riverfront Drive has been restricted so workers can build a system to pump water away from north downtown and prevent flooding at the Qwest Center Omaha.
Crews from L.G. Roloff Construction Co. spent Saturday digging behind the convention center and arena.
Once they reach the sewer line, they'll put 16 to 18 pumps on top of the pipes to collect water and move it into the Missouri River in the event of flooding and heavy rain.
The trench will be about 10 feet deep, 20 feet wide and 40 feet long.
There was no standing water on the Qwest Center property on Saturday, said Rebecca Kleeman, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority.
Bob Norris, co-owner of the construction company, said the sewer pipes along the riverfront are full.
Since the floodgates on the river are closed, there would be no place for extra water to go if a heavy rain falls.
That could cause major sewer backups at the Qwest Center, TD Ameritrade Park and other parts of the north downtown area.
MECA officials said Saturday there haven't been any sewer backups in the Qwest Center or the ballpark.
The construction work also will entail tearing up much of the parking lot at the National Park Service building at 601 Riverfront Drive.
City officials ask that the public avoid Riverfront Drive unless they are planning to dine at Rick's Cafe Boatyard or use the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. The road remains accessible to those who live along the riverfont.
Norris said he expects the work to be done by Friday.
“This is going to be very, very costly for the city,” he said. “But everybody else up and down the river is facing huge expenses to protect their property.”
Aida Amoura, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Suttle, said the work was preventative, to ensure that “water stays away from the Qwest Center.”
“This system that they're putting in will alleviate any problems,” said Assistant Fire Chief Dan Stolinski.
Last week, standing water was reported in the Qwest Center's Lot D, but it had been pumped out by the end of Thursday.
That backup was caused by leaky joints between the manhole cover and the sewer line, not a cracked sewer line as was initially feared.
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