Crews work to reinforce levees -
Published Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:29 am
Crews work to reinforce levees

Independence Day offered no freedom from flooding for crews reinforcing levees up and down the swollen Missouri River.

At low-lying Hamburg, Iowa, the Army Corps of Engineers and contractors toiled Monday on two levees.

At Lake Waconda southeast of Murray, Neb., the levee continued to keep the Missouri out of the 210-dwelling recreational development after floodwater washed across nearby land Sunday.

At Eppley Airfield in Omaha, contractors continued their ’round-the-clock building of a protective barrier along an estimated 3,500 feet of levee. The goal is to have it installed by July 16.

Work continued on a similar barrier along three miles of levee protecting Council Bluffs. That work is expected to be completed by Friday.

The flood-fighting at Hamburg in the southwest tip of Iowa was a race with the river. Workers hustled to finish reinforcing the back side of the town’s backup levee as they watched floodwater fill farmland on the other side. The corps expected work to be complete Thursday.

“So now we’re in a hurry-up-and-wait mode again,” said Mike Crecelius, emergency manager in Fremont County, Iowa.

“All we can do is wait for the bottom(land) to fill up and see what effect it has on the levee at Hamburg,’’ he said.

The river is a bit more than 5 feet from the top of the backup levee.

Hamburg’s backup levee was hurriedly raised and hardened after the flooding Missouri breached a federal levee near town earlier last month.

The current work involves widening a segment of the backup levee and installing a series of seepage blankets. The blankets consist of a layer of heavy porous material that allows water to seep through the levee but keeps soil particles from leaching away and weakening the structure.

Hamburg’s latest threat is from floodwater slowly filling the rural landscape from a levee break Thursday near Percival, Iowa, 14 miles north of Hamburg. Three feet of water was moving toward Hamburg.

“Once the bottom fills, we expect to see the river rise faster against the (backup) levee,’’ Crecelius said.

Also Monday, workers continued repairing a Nishnabotna River levee on the west side of Hamburg. The Nishnabotna isn’t as big of a threat to Hamburg as the Missouri, Crecelius said.

“We don’t want any surprises on that side, so we’re keeping an eye on it,’’ he said.

That work was expected to be completed Wednesday.

Lake Waconda residents scrambled during the weekend to shore up their levee, the only barrier between their 90-acre lake and the flooding river. Most residents have evacuated.

Despite earlier reports from Cass County Emergency Management, floodwater flowing toward Lake Waconda on Sunday was not from a breached federal levee, according to the corps.

The river apparently breached a nearby levee constructed along the river bank by a private landowner or others.

Floodwater washed across a tract of corps land purchased in 2006 adjacent to the Lake Waconda levee to help restore the river’s ecosystem, not to control flooding. A tree- and brush-covered structure along the river bank on the federal land is not a levee and apparently was constructed by a previous landowner, not the corps, officials said.

Lake Waconda property owners plan to meet Tuesday at their Omaha attorney’s office to discuss how to combine federal emergency aid with an estimated $200-per-lot tax increase to fully fund the cost of fighting the flood and restoring roads and landscaping. The tax increase would start in 2012 and continue through 2015.

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: David Hendee    |   402-444-1127

David covers a variety of news across Nebraska, particularly natural resources and rural issues and the State Game and Parks Commission.

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