20190530_new_floodingiowa_pic_cm012

A worker with Environmental Restoration, a contractor hired by the EPA, moves "orphaned tanks" out of floodwaters on boats underneath Interstate 29 in Pacific Junction, Iowa.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday notched a first in its efforts to repair badly damaged levees along the Missouri River.

A 1,200-foot hole in the levee south of Council Bluffs was closed.

The breach is one of four priority repairs along the Missouri River between Omaha and Rulo, Nebraska, and it is the first of the four to be completed, said Matthew Krajewski, readiness branch chief for the Omaha district of the corps. There are 40-some breaches in levees between Omaha and Rulo. Initial repairs to all of those won’t be completed until next year, Krajewski, said.

“We got it closed,” he said of the $6 million effort. The funding comes from federal coffers.

The levee protects parts of the Bluffs, Highway 34, the MidAmerican Energy coal plant, Southwest Renewable Energy — the plant that President Trump visited Tuesday — a Google data center and the town of Pacific Junction. It is known as L611-614 — the L refers to the left bank of the Missouri as one looks downstream; the numbers refer to river mile markers.

The patch isn’t final, Krajewski said. The hole has been filled to a minimum level of protection — roughly the equivalent of a 25-year flood — but not to the levee height or condition prior to this spring’s flooding. Additional work will be needed to do that, he said.

The breach was patched with river sand. Now that the breach has been closed, the corps will focus on shoring up the patch against the river’s corrosive power, Krajewski said. Crews will do that by placing rock or clay over the sand to give the patch more resilience. As money and time permits, the corps will return and restore the levee to preflood conditions, he said.

The work was done by Western Contracting of Sioux City, Iowa.

Closure of another significant breach — the one that allowed the river to flow into Percival, Iowa — also should be completed yet this week, Krajewski said. It is known as the L575-A breach.

Another is scheduled for completion later this month, but the last of the four may not be completed until early July.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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