Detour made shorter — A flood detour across the Missouri River between Iowa and Nebraska is getting shorter.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is adding a legal crossover south of the Interstate 29 interchange with U.S. Highway 34 to allow drivers to make a U-turn from one Interstate ramp to another. In addition, eastbound Highway 34 travelers will be able to drive south on the ramp and use the crossover to take the ramp north.
The department said that, beginning Wednesday, the crossover will shorten the distance by about 15 miles for drivers going east on Highway 34 from Plattsmouth and then north on I-29. Median crossovers along the Interstate are normally restricted to law enforcement officers.
Rising groundwater — The City of Omaha is extending a seepage berm near the Omaha Correctional Center to suppress rising groundwater that resulted from the Missouri River reaching a second crest last weekend.
Over the past two months, about 10 seepage berms have been built in eastern Omaha to counter the effects of flooding, said Marty Grate of Omaha's Public Works Department. Some have been built by the city or its contractors, some by contractors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and some by contractors working for the Omaha Airport Authority. The berms typically are built with a layer of sand, then a layer of rock that holds the sand in place but allows the water to move, Grate said.
This latest berm, being extended by a corps contractor, should be completed by the end of the week. Grate said groundwater often percolates up after a berm has been built. When this happens, the berm is extended.
Tree woes: An official with the Nebraska Forest Service says flooding along the Missouri River could be hurting area trees. Eric Berg said the resilience of trees to flooding varies by species, age and health of the tree before flooding, among other things. Standing water, he said, is damaging, as tree roots need to obtain oxygen. Berg said symptoms of flood damage include leaf yellowing, early leaf drop and dieback at the crown. He said landowners can help alleviate damage by redirecting standing water, if possible, and covering exposed tree roots to the original soil depth.
Fort Calhoun: Once the Missouri River floodwaters recede, a number of repairs will have to be made before Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant can resume generating electricity. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission scheduled a meeting for Wednesday with Omaha Public Power District officials to discuss Fort Calhoun's recovery. Much of the nuclear plant about 20 miles north of Omaha has been surrounded by floodwaters, but the plant itself remains dry inside. Fort Calhoun will stay shut down until after the flooding eases sometime in the fall.
Emergency funds: The federal government is making $2 million in emergency funds available to Iowa to reimburse the state for work on roads that receive federal aid during the flooding on the Missouri River. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the quick release of emergency funds Wednesday. The money will be used to reimburse the Iowa Department of Transportation for the cost of controlling traffic flow, shoring up roads and bridges and other measures, including sandbagging, to prevent more damage.
Airport pumping — The trouble spots popping up north and south of Eppley Airfield are not occurring on airport property, officials there say.
The 70 pumps that the Omaha Airport Authority has installed appear to be keeping groundwater from causing problems, said Steve Coufal, executive director. Coufal said no sandboils, sinkholes or similar indications of stress from groundwater have surfaced since July 17.
Installation of the wells was completed July 20. In addition to the pumps, the airport authority has laid down weighted blankets similar to the city's seepage berms. Those are in areas where sandboils had emerged before the pumps were installed, Coufal said.
As a result of the pumping, the water table has dropped by as much as 14 feet at the airport-area wellfields. Near the runways, the water table has dropped about 2.5 feet, Coufal said. The Airport Authority anticipates spending $26 million on its flood fight, including cleanup.
Water in, water out — The Omaha Airport Authority is pumping more water back into the river each day than is used on an average day by Omaha-area businesses and residents.
The airport is pumping out about 100 million gallons a day, airport officials say. That's well above the 88 million gallon average used daily by customers of the Metropolitan Utilities District.
Mark Doyle, an MUD senior vice president, said the figure is an average of all seasons' use. June use averaged 110 gallons per day; July has been averaging 132 gallons per day, he said.
"We're pumping it out, and we're pumping it back in," Doyle said.
World-Herald staff writers Nancy Gaarder and Emily Nohr, with the Associated Press.