KEARNEY — Buffalo County residents living along the Wood River are concerned about more flooding in the area.
The stream overspilled its banks in Gibbon twice this year and, if predictions in the Old Farmer’s Almanac prove correct, there could be more flooding this fall.
Buffalo County Commissioner Ivan Klein of Gibbon told other commissioners during their meeting Tuesday that some Gibbon-area residents want quick action, such as removing trees stacked like a beaver dam, so the river flows more freely through town.
Although there are residents who urgently want something to be done, the commissioners are worried that a short-term approach might be ineffective. Instead, they prefer a long-term plan to reduce flooding threats along the river through all of Buffalo County.
“I just got a call,” Klein said. “The caller said, ‘That’s not fast enough.’”
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Although some Gibbon residents are worried the next flood could wipe their town off the map, the focus since severe flooding in March and July has been on thoroughly studying the problem and adopting a long-term, comprehensive strategy, similar to the project that spared Grand Island from flooding in July.
Tony Krause, who works in flood risk and flood plain management with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, described to the county board how a levee and diversion structure kept floodwaters away from Grand Island and diverted them into the Platte. A similar approach might be practical for Kearney, which suffered substantial damage in its hotel district on July 9.
Krause said Corps of Engineers projects must be cost-justified. If the benefit is less than the cost, it’s unlikely Corps headquarters or Congress would approve the funding.
He said a substantial project in Kearney likely would be easier to justify than a similar project in Gibbon.
Krause also said dredging smaller streams such as the Wood River is costly and the streams often refill with silt in 10 years.
However, he said the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Program has money to help homeowners now. “They can buy out homes, elevate homes or move homes,” Krause said.
Buffalo County Emergency Manager Darrin Lewis said he’s familiar with the NEMA Hazard Mitigation Program. “It’s basically a buy-back program,” he said. “It’s so if you’re in a floodplain they’ll buy you out so you don’t build there again.”
The Corps has been studying hydraulics of the Wood River from Gibbon to Grand Island, Kraus said.
A meeting about that study will begin at 10 a.m. Aug. 22 at the Wood River Fire Hall, at which Corps officials hope to gather information from the public about recent flooding.
Because of the March and July floods, the Corps will consider expanding its study to include the stretch of the Wood River beginning at Amherst.
Central Platte Natural Resources District officials also have been studying flooding along the Wood River. Like the Corps’ study, the CPNRD effort began long before the March and July floods.
Commissioners Myron Kouba of Kearney and Dennis Reiter of Elm Creek met with CPNRD officials two weeks ago to find out how the NRD might help prevent flooding along the Wood River.
Both commissioners said a long-term approach to reducing the flooding potential seems to make sense.