Historic flood hit weeks before levee project was to begin,
causing catastrophic damage to the base and surrounding area
The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Congressional Delegation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Offutt Air Force Base, and other dignitaries today celebrated the start of repairs and upgrades to two levees at Offutt Air Force Base following the historic flood of 2019.
The March flood severely damaged the Missouri River Levee System that protects Offutt Air Force Base, resulting in nearly $1 billion in damage to the base. The nearby Papillion Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and levee system sustained more than $45 million in damage. The flooding occurred just weeks before the Papio NRD was to begin federally mandated upgrades to the levees.
“While timing of the flooding was certainly unfortunate, today we have great reason to celebrate,” said John Winkler, general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. “Like anything worthwhile, it wasn’t easy and the weather didn’t help. However, the historic floods of 2011 and 2019 only slowed us down. They never deterred us from the mission,” said Winkler.
During the week of September 9th, the Papio NRD, in cooperation and coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, started the levee construction – raising and widening levees R-613 and R-616 – to provide increased flood risk protection to the area of tremendous infrastructure.
“That’s what this project represents, that spirit of Nebraska,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “Not allowing ourselves to be defeated by Mother Nature, but willing to work together to build bigger and better than before. To rebuild this levee. To protect Offutt Air Force Base so they can continue their mission of protecting us,” said Ricketts.
Congressman Don Bacon said the levee project is an important milestone because without the levee system upgrades, the Unites States Air Force was not willing to replace the flooded Offutt Air Force Base runway.
“This levee is important for that runway, which costs $170 million to totally redo,” said Congressman Bacon. “Without the commitment to raise this levee, we would not get the replacement of $300 million to replace the buildings that were destroyed,” said Bacon.
“We are in the process of finishing the first contract, which was to restore levee R-616 and R-613 to its pre-flood condition,” said Colonel John Hudson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.” That contractor’s efforts will be wrapping up here in the next week. That sets the condition for the Papio NRD’s contract to start work to raise the levee that additional two to three feet,” said Colonel Hudson.
The $35 million Missouri River Levee System project is estimated to be completed by 2021.
Additional speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included District Representative Rita Sanders on behalf of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Bellevue Mayor Rusty Hike, Offutt Air Force Base Mission Support Group Commander Colonel Alan Dayton, and Papio NRD Chairperson Jim Thompson.