Repair work to dozens of damaged levees is accelerating as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ramps up contracting decisions this month.
The Omaha district of the corps has spent most the past four-plus months closing its highest-priority levee breaches while also gathering the information needed to design repairs for the rest.
The district has closed breaches in 10 levees in its territory since March and has 39 left to do. Because levees sustained all manner of damage, there’s more work to do than just those 39 breach projects.
Last week, the corps awarded two contracts for levee work, a $10.3 million contract for the Offutt levee and a $183,000 contract to repair damage to the 2.5-mile levee that protects Pierce, Nebraska, from the North Branch of the Elkhorn River. The Pierce levee protects 550 homes, businesses and other buildings along with about 1,100 people.
The Pierce levee is the first full rehabilitation project on the smaller tributaries in the Omaha district, said Jeff Bohlken, program manager for the Omaha District Systems Restoration Team. It wasn’t breached, but its sides and base sustained significant erosion.
Niewohner Construction of Onawa, Iowa, won the contract and will have 60 days to restore the Pierce levee to its pre-flood condition.
There are 16 levees along tributaries that have been identified as in need of rehabilitation. Over the next two months, the Omaha district anticipates awarding contracts for five to 10 more of those. Affected tributaries are the Platte, Elkhorn and Loup Rivers and the Papillion Creek.
Work continues along the Missouri River, too, with another two to three levee contracts along it, according to the corps.
In total, the agency anticipates approving contracts for more than two dozen levee projects in the Omaha district between now and January.
There are more than 500 miles of levees on the Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn Rivers and tributaries that have experienced significant damage since historic flooding in March.
The agency’s goal is to have all breaches closed before March — the start of the 2020 flood season. However, in many instances, the closures will provide only a minimal level of protection. Returning all levees to pre-flood conditions is expected to take about two years.
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