Should some of the residents of Gibbon uproot and move to higher ground? That appears to be among the options as the Buffalo County town of 1,850 residents, which was inundated by floodwaters on March 14 and again on July 10, now finds itself inundated with questions about its future.
Two weeks ago a contingent of 30 Gibbon residents appealed to the Buffalo County Board: “Help us because one more catastrophe could flush our community off the map.
The Board of Commissioners took the flood victims’ request to heart. Two days later, commissioners Dennis Reiter of Elm Creek and Myron Kouba of Kearney were in Grand Island consulting with leaders of the Central Platte Natural Resources District about what kinds of help Gibbon might get.
This week, the commissioners heard about flood mitigation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Both of the entities — the Corps and CPNRD — have offered encouraging information. They already are conducting flooding studies along the worrisome Wood River, and both appear to be interested in helping to address flooding issues — but not in the manner Gibbon residents would prefer.
The Corps and CPNRD prefer to complete their studies then make plans, a years-long process that won’t comfort Gibbon’s flood victims who desire reassurances now. After two 1,000-year floods rolled through their community, they believe anything could happen at anytime. Waiting several years for a flood study to be completed, and then waiting longer for funding and a project to get underway doesn’t cut it.
Commissioner Ivan Klein of Gibbon reported to his colleagues on Tuesday he’s receiving calls from his constituents and they’re telling him that fixing the problems a few years from now “isn’t soon enough.”
Who can blame them? Nobody could have predicted Gibbon would get two historic floods in the space of four months.
Hopefully, residents of Gibbon were listening as the Corps official on Tuesday described to the Board of Commissioners a government buyout program that may afford some Gibbon residents an option to act now, not later. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency’s hazard mitigation program may be the answer for residents who believe they are in the path of the next big flood.
The buyout would allow qualifying property owners to receive 75 percent of the pre-flood value of their properties. They also might qualify for assistance elevating their houses or moving them.
Gibbon isn’t the only Nebraska community facing a tough choice. Residents of the Dodge County village of Winslow, which was severely flooded earlier this year, are considering moving to higher ground.
Is NEMA’s hazard mitigation program right for Gibbon residents? They ought to at least learn about their options and, if they feel strongly that another major flood is inevitable, they probably shouldn’t wait for the flood studies and funding battles.