Eppley Airfield: Crews continue to work to keep Omaha's Eppley Airfield as dry as possible. Through Tuesday, 48 of the planned 70 dewatering wells going in around airport property had been drilled, said Steve Coufal, executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. Of those, 23 were operating, he said. Groundwater levels in the areas around the active dewatering wells have dropped between 2 feet and 7 feet, Coufal said. The wells' effectiveness, he said, will help stabilize water levels and reduce sinkholes and sand boils caused by rising groundwater pressure. Coufal said crews also have inspected about 40,000 feet of underground stormwater piping with a camera. As leaks are identified, he said, they are evaluated and repaired as needed. The Missouri River levels appear to have stabilized over the past week, Coufal said. The distance from the river to the top of the levee is 7.1 feet on the airport's south end and 9.1 feet on the north.
Flood threat: The threat of more flooding will continue through the summer, National Weather Service forecasters said Wednesday. Rivers already are running high and the soil is saturated, so only a small amount of rain could trigger more flooding in the upper Midwest and northern Plains, the weather service said. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-normal rain in most of these vulnerable areas in the next two weeks, plus above-normal rainfall over much of the region in its one- and three-month outlooks. Rising temperatures over the Rockies will release water from remaining snowpack. “The sponge is fully saturated — there is nowhere for any additional water to go,” said Jack Hayes, National Weather Service director. “While unusual for this time of year, all signs point to the flood threat continuing through summer.”
Bridge closed: Highway 175 at the Decatur, Neb., crossing into Iowa remains closed due to erosion of the bridge embankment on the Iowa side. Officials will evaluate the erosion and determine if mitigation work can be done to reopen the bridge.
Sump pump monitoring: Council Bluffs city staff members notified owners and occupants of 73 structures in the Playland Park neighborhood Wednesday that their private sump pumps may be shut off if they bring up sand and other soil material in their discharges. The city fears sinkholes at the property sites and even threats to the Missouri River levee in the area. Mayor Tom Hanafan signed a proclamation last week giving the city authority to shut down private pumps at properties that are contributing to sinkholes. If a homeowner refuses to turn the pump off when city officials spot a problem, Gross said, utilities will be cut to the home. Homeowners who have no material in their pump wash can continue to pump.
Train routes: More train traffic is running through Dodge City in western Kansas because of floods along the Missouri River. A section of track that moves coal from Lincoln to Kansas City, Mo., is under water because of Missouri River flooding.
Bluffs pump: The storm water pumping station at Veterans Memorial Bridge Highway and the Missouri River levee has been damaged beyond repair because of unstable soil conditions, according to the city. Temporary pumps will be installed until a permanent solution is determined.
Casino road: The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors has rejected a project to turn a county road into a usable route for a western Iowa casino that's been closed by flooding. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, which owns the WinnaVegas casino in Sloan, closed the complex in June and built an oblong berm to encircle it. The owners asked the County Board to consider vacating the road so they could take control of it and make it navigable enough to re-open the casino. Several residents with nearby acreages said they were concerned a proposed road fix would result in water being forced toward their property.
Disaster aid: Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is urging U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve crop disaster relief for western Iowa in the wake of flooding. Harkin says a secretarial disaster designation would provide money from USDA programs, emergency loans and Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program to help producers recover from loss of crops and damage to farmland, livestock facilities and buildings.
Corps questioned: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is questioning whether flood control is a high enough priority for the Army Corps of Engineers as it oversees the Missouri River system. Brownback called Wednesday for creation of a special commission to examine the corps' oversight of the system and reservoirs. The corps has blamed unusually heavy rainfall in the upper Missouri basin and higher than normal snowmelt for release of historic amounts of water from upstream dams. Brownback said he's concerned that the corps is required by federal law to put too much weight on other issues in managing the river, such as preserving navigation and recreation. “We need a 9-11 style commission to look back on how the system was operated this past winter and ask, ‘Are we operating it effectively for everybody downstream?'” U.S. Sen Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, echoed Brownback in his weekly conference call. Grassley noted that besides flood control, the Corps deals with water recreation, irrigation, municipal water supplies, wildlife management and several other duties. More emphasis on flood control might mean more release of water from upstream dams during winter months, he said.
By World-Herald staff writers Bob Glissmann, Andrew J. Nelson and Michael Holmes, with the Associated Press and the World-Herald News Service.