Two additional dams, property buyouts and a flood wall along some creek-side trails are among the projects under consideration for reducing the flood threat in the Omaha metro area.
Also in the mix is the ability to use eminent domain if need be.
At a public meeting Tuesday evening, Tiffany Vanosdall, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, outlined options the agency is considering in its joint study with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. The study focuses on the flood threat in the Papillion Creek watershed, which covers most of Douglas County and a significant share of Washington and Sarpy Counties.
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During two hours of back and forth, most of the questions from the 60-plus attendees came from rural residents who may be asked to pay the price for urban development and, likewise, from some taxpayers who think their taxes will be diverted to fix problems created by what they see as lax control of flood plain development.
Vanosdall said a draft recommendation will be released this fall. That’s when there will be a price tag on the cost of the projects and the value of the property they’ll protect. The draft will be followed by a 30-day comment period and another public meeting. After that, a final decision will be made, and the search for funding will get underway.
Of the two dams in this proposal, one is already in the preliminary planning stages — Dam Site 19 on the South Papillion Creek in Sarpy County.
The other, Dam Site 10 on the Thomas Creek in northern Douglas County, has been bitterly opposed — and so far successfully so — since the 1970s.
Shawn Melotz, whose rural Douglas County property would be affected by the Thomas Creek dam, said she’s disappointed to see it back under consideration.
“It surprises me because of the lack of development in (our) area,” she said as she looked at the maps presented Tuesday night at Mammel Hall on the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus. “I’m not sure what’s changed.”
Extensive downstream development in the Omaha metro area contributed to the dam making the preliminary cut for cost-benefit analysis, Vanosdall said.
Omahan Richard Onken said part of the problem is that local governments grant waivers to allow development in the flood plain.
“There are no flood plain regulations that are enforced,” he said. “How is this not taxpayer subsidization of development in the flood plain?”
Other flood reduction measures under consideration include widening stretches of some creeks, modifying some levees and adding flood walls atop some levees in highly developed areas.
Area joggers, bicyclists and walkers may one day see a wall along some of their favorite trails. The Keystone in the Aksarben area is one of the trails where a wall might get built, based on these early designs.
No matter what is done, there will remain a residual flood risk, Vanosdall said.
“(This won’t) prevent all flooding,” she said. “There are risks no matter what flood measures are in place.”