Repairs to levees and other infrastructure along the Platte and Missouri Rivers are going to cost in excess of $1 billion — and the Army Corps of Engineers is still counting.
Levees and other structures that control the rivers have been extensively damaged since flooding began in mid-March. The Missouri River remains in flood stage from Nebraska City to St. Louis, so there are many areas where the corps has yet to assess damage.
Problems include outright breaches in levees, deep scour holes, erosion to the armoring of the river banks and toppling of in-stream dikes that direct the water’s flow. The corps has counted more than 100 levee breaches between Omaha and St. Louis, with only a handful repaired so far.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
Tom Brady, an official with the corps office that oversees the Missouri River, said Thursday that more than $1 billion in damage has been found to date and that much work remains to figure out the full scope.
Matt Rabe, also of the corps, said the $1 billion figure is based on costs for the first 61 of 108 projects deemed eligible for federal funding. More than 150 projects have been submitted to the corps for funding, he said, and additional applications are expected.
With that in mind, corps officials said the costs are “very likely” to go up. About 850 river miles have seen damage, and officials expect the work to take a couple of years.
Rabe said money for repairs will come from a mix of regular corps funding and special disaster aid. Whether there will be enough money remains to be seen. Widespread flooding this year means that taxpayers can expect an enormous repair bill when it’s all tallied.
On Thursday, the corps lowered releases from Gavins Point Dam by 5,000 cubic feet per second to 70,000 cubic feet per second. That’s good news because it means that there will be less water flowing downstream of the dam along the Nebraska-South Dakota border.
Absent rain, the lower releases should allow the river to drop about 6 inches at most sites south of Omaha, said Kevin Low, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service.