Miles of pipe. Thousands of sandbags. Seepage blankets that cover sand boils, and the rocks that keep the blankets in place.
Everything must go after the Missouri River recedes and the wet threat to Omaha's Eppley Airfield heads downstream. And removing the weapons used in the flood battle will cost money.
Omaha Airport Authority officials long have known that protecting Omaha's aviation link to the world wouldn't be cheap. They now estimate that the total cost of the work will reach $26 million.
Last month, Stan Kathol, the airport authority's finance director, told the authority board that flood-fighting costs could approach $15.5 million by the end of August. Kathol said Friday that the airport has spent $8 million on the work so far.
The $26 million estimate comes after contractors working on the project tallied the work they already have done and they, airport officials and engineers determined what else remained to be addressed.
"We carried it out to what we think might be a logical end to this," Kathol said. "Not to a particular date, but well into the fall."
One of the biggest projects in the massive effort was the construction of 70 pumping wells designed to control high groundwater levels. As of Wednesday, all were pumping water into the river or the airport's stormwater drainage system, Kathol said. Seventy-five percent of the well-discharge water is pumped directly over the levee that runs along the airport property's east side. About 25 percent is routed through storm drains or pump stations.
The pumps are making a difference: Groundwater levels in dewatering areas have dropped by as much as 13 feet, monitoring has shown.
Without the pumps, the groundwater could rise to a point where water would bubble up and flood the runways and terminals. Pressure from the groundwater also creates sinkholes and sand boils, which occur when river water forces its way under a levee and percolates up on the dry side.
Officials have been documenting all the work and submitting bills to the airport's insurance carrier, Travelers Insurance. "Hopefully they agree that the expenditures we've incurred — or a lot of them — do qualify under our policy," Kathol said.
Reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency comes in after the insurance work is complete, he said. Typically, he said, FEMA reimburses 75 percent of qualified expenditures after insurance proceeds have been received. It's still unclear how much federal and state money will be available for any of the work, Kathol said.
Whatever the cost, the work needed to be done, he said.
"The cost of not doing anything would be significantly greater than what we did," Kathol said. "We have not had any drop in any operations. We haven't had any of our buildings flooded. The runways have always stayed open."
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