Levees along the Missouri River have sustained at least $335 million in damage in this summer's flooding, according to early estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Based on what the corps is seeing, Midlands levees might be in better shape than expected, said Kim Thomas, chief of emergency management for the corps' Omaha district.
Nationwide, levees this year have sustained about $2 billion in damage, Thomas said.
But here's the rub.
Jud Kneuvean, chief of emergency management for the corps' Kansas City district, said the corps' national budget has $135 million available for repairs.
Because federal money is short and winter is fast approaching, the corps will prioritize repairs, first fixing breached levees — such as those near Hamburg, Iowa — and then focusing on populated areas, Thomas said.
The true extent of levee damage along the Missouri should be known in October, when water levels have dropped further and more thorough assessments can be done, Thomas said.
Initially, corps officials estimated the Missouri River flood control system had sustained $1 billion in damage, including dam repairs. This latest estimate does not include damage to the dams.
"We've got to wait until water gets down," she said. "The costs could go up; they could go down."
Both of Nebraska's U.S. senators, Republican Mike Johanns and Democrat Ben Nelson, expressed confidence that Congress would approve enough money to repair the levees.
"I think it will all work out, but it will be multiple years," Nelson said. "(The levees) go bad overnight, but you don't get them all back overnight."
In the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, most of the levee damage appears to involve erosion and loss of vegetation, but not significant scouring, Thomas said.
South of Omaha, the damage is more serious. The two breaches near Hamburg will require significant spending to fix, she said.
In the Kansas City district, the levees that were overtopped or breached were smaller and less costly to repair than those in the Omaha district, Kneuvean said.
World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this report.
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