Saunder County residents wait longingly for levee repair after last year's flood

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 6:02 AM CDT
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It’s been more than a year since devastating floods breached levees along the Missouri and Platte rivers. Many have been repaired, but one gaping hole remains open and nervous neighbors are asking why.

March 2019 just before the raging Platte River broke through a levee that today remains in need of repair.

Rita Pratt said, “Excuse after excuse after excuse.”

Mike and Rita Pratt live a mile away and see a 600-foot gap in flood protection.

Mike Pratt said, “Please get it done because it’s not just us.”

Neighbors wonder about repairs on the levee.

Dave Hester, from Leshara, said, “We can’t get the information and we don’t know when they’re going to do it. It needs to be done as soon as possible or we’re going to have some more of this remodeling to do.”

An estimated $400,000 repair cost would be split three ways with FEMA paying 75 percent.

The money to repair this breach could come from a variety of sources, but guided by a levee commissioner.

Dave Fiest with Leshara Drainage District says he’s not dragging his feet.

“I would say FEMA would be the biggest problem, they just can’t get her done,” said Fiest.

Fiest’s farmland has been flooded so he wants to rebuild the levee but can’t start without FEMA approval and money.

“Yeah, very frustrating a year of it now. But we’ll get her fixed, we can’t give up,” said Fiest.

A FEMA email states, “The Leshara Levee Project is going through FEMA’s formulation including environmental historic preservation and eligibility reviews. These reviews are complex. Unfortunately, we do not have an estimate for the time frame to complete these reviews.”

Though fortunate the Platte River hasn’t invaded in the last year, those who rely on the levee say they’ll push FEMA for repair approval because they’re pushing their luck.

A private engineer already hired for the levee repair says plans are done and there’s open communication with FEMA. However, FEMA says the project is among more than 400 applications for help that need to be reviewed just in Nebraska.