The North Bend Eagle



City gets bad news on FEMA levee repairs

by Nathan Arneal
Published 8/14/19

North Bend officials are not liking what they’re hearing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

North Bend requested about $730,000 to repair the Platte River levee southwest of North Bend. Since the March flood, the river has been washing directly against the levee, causing it to erode. Before the flood, there was 90 yards of dry ground and a jetty between the levee and the river bank.

Last Tuesday, the day of the Aug. 6 city council meeting, city clerk Theresa Busse was told by FEMA reps that they consider it a $217,000 project. Of that, FEMA would pay 75%, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency 12.5% and the city of North Bend 12.5%.

When the original request was made, the cost of building up a road through Pioneer Lake was included. The latest version of the project has the route of the levee going through Riverview Shores, which will require a shorter and less expensive route.

FEMA also told Busse it wouldn’t pay for a road to the levee for repair access. That cost would fall on the city.

City officials were skeptical that the project could be done for $217,000. Julie Ogden of JEO Consulting, which acts as the city’s engineer, said the process of getting the project designed, permitted and ready for bid letting will cost $85,000.

The news got worse.

When Busse asked Ogden what the timetable was to get the levee repaired, Ogden said surveying, design and permitting would take until December, with actual work not starting until the ground thawed in March.

“We can’t wait that long,” Busse said. “If we don’t get it built before winter, we’re going to flood.”
Councilman Ken Streff said if it does flood again, FEMA will be paying for 100% of the repair, since FEMA covers all costs in an emergency situation, compared to the 75% it covers in a recovery situation.

Streff also said the fire department has one-ton sandbags on call if they need to plug a break in the levee.

“We’re probably good until we get any ice jams in the spring,” Streff said. “
That’s where we’re in trouble.”

Ogden said she’d try to move the project along as fast as she could, but she said anything getting done before spring was doubtful.

“That’s a disaster,” Busse said. “That isn’t going to cut it. Our flood this year was March 15. If we don’t have some protection there, we’re doomed.”

With no other options, the city council begrudgingly approved the agreement with JEO to begin designing the levee improvements.

In other council business:

• The council authorized JEO to advertise for bids on Phase 1 of the flood repair to city streets, which includes Cottonwood Street from Highway 30 to the gate of Pioneer Lake and several street returns around town. The council also authorised bid advertisement on repairs to sewer manholes.

• A discussion was held with three members of the Pioneer Lake Homeowners Association Board on the city’s responsibility with the private roads within Pioneer Lake.

The HOA board members asked that the city follow through with its commitment to maintain Pioneer Lake roads and pay for repairs to its flood-damaged roads.

Echoing discussion at the July 2 meeting, debate ensued as to what constitutes maintenance and what constitutes repair. Several council members expressed a willingness to reach a compromise and work with Pioneer Lake to get its internal road fixed. The council asked the HOA to get an estimate on the damage repair.

• The meeting began with the council taking a tour of the city’s water and sewer treatment system.


Note: This story was edited from the print version to change the cost of the levee repair according to FEMA to $217,00. The original version incorrectly said $275,000.


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