Omaha, Nebraska, Officials Reviewing Flood-Control Measures

April 2, 2019

Officials in the Omaha, Nebraska, area are reevaluating the city’s flood-control measures, shortly after heavy rains caused dozens of counties and cities in the state to declare a state of emergency.

A flash flood event caused by heavy rain in the Papillion Creek Basin is Omaha’s biggest flooding vulnerability, John Winkler, the general manager of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, told the Omaha World-Herald. About a third of Nebraska’s population lives in the area.

Heavy rain in the northern part of the basin, followed by more in the southern part of the basin would trigger a flood, Winkler said.

“That’s what would overwhelm us,” Winkler said.

The predictions are based on a 100-year storm event, which would deliver 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours over a wide area of the basin. The Papillion Creek covers 400 square miles (1036 square kilometers) across Washington, Douglas and Sarpy counties.

The flooding concerns come after state officials say recent flooding caused nearly $1.4 billion in losses and damage.

“After the things we’ve seen in the past few days, I don’t think we’d dispute the power of water at all,” said Amanda Grint, water resources engineer with the NRD.

One main concern with the Papillion Creek is that flooding can occur quickly and with little warning.

“You’re probably lucky if you have hours,” Winkler said.

The NRD will finish updating its watershed management plan this spring. The plan examines development plans, meteorological data and funding available for projects.

The NRD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other groups are also beginning a comprehensive risk analysis for Omaha. The three-year study is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

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