The latest on flooding: June 28


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Eppley pumps: A dozen of the 70 dewatering wells planned at Eppley Airfield have been drilled and some may be operating this week.

“Things are going fine,'' said Steve Coufal, executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority.

The dewatering wells are being installed along the airport's perimeter and along the flooding Missouri River. Each 90-foot well will collect river water that is trying to surface. Pumps capable of discharging 1,200 to 1,400 gallons of water per minute will take the underground water and pour it over the 20-foot levees that protect the airport.
Coufal said drilling is accelerating as additional contractors join the effort.

River lower: New data from the National Weather Service show the North Platte River is getting lower and suggests that the potential for more Nebraska Panhandle flooding is ebbing. The river dropped from 6.21 feet Thursday to 5.82 feet by Monday afternoon at Henry. Flood stage is 5.5 feet. It dropped to 8.41 feet Monday afternoon after hitting 9.1 feet Saturday at Mitchell. Flood stage is 7.5 feet. John Lawson, area manager at the Wyoming Bureau of Reclamation office, said the drop could be attributed to the start of irrigation season.

Corps releases: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started tightening water releases into the Missouri River from Fort Peck, Garrison, Oahe and Big Bend on Monday. A sudden increase in the elevation of Fort Randall reservoir to a historic high triggered the move. No changes were planned for releases from Gavins Point Dam in northeast Nebraska. The changes were a routine development in managing reservoir levels, said Jody Farhat, chief of the corps' water management office in Omaha. She said releases could return to peak rates depending on flows into the reservoirs.

Bridge closed: Officials said the toll bridge at Decatur, Neb., into Iowa over the Missouri River is closed. Jim Maryott, civil defense coordinator for Decatur, Neb., said the bridge closed Monday evening. The highway becomes Iowa Highway 175, which takes motorists east to Onawa and is a link to Interstate 29.

Highway 30: U.S. Highway 30 between Missouri Valley, Iowa, and Blair, Neb., remained open Monday despite a levee break Saturday that forced evacuations west of Missouri Valley. But the Iowa Department of Transportation will temporarily close the highway beginning Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. The purpose of the closure is to install a flood-control barrier along the south side of the roadway. The highway will be closed for two days.

Sewage geyser: Omaha officials need to cap a 12-foot-high geyser of treated sewage before it maroons the city's Sarpy County water treatment plant. Pressure from the rising Missouri River caused a manhole cover to pop off Sunday near the plant, which serves Omaha-area residents west of 50th Street, said Marty Grate of the Public Works Department. The plant is south of Offutt Air Force Base. Water is spurting behind the levee. If it isn't stopped, Grate said, the plant could be surrounded by water. Nebraska National Guard Black Hawk helicopters dropped 1-ton sandbags Monday. Workers also were building a road for machinery to reach the geyser, and they hope to have it capped Tuesday.

Helpful signs: The Nebraska Department of Roads has installed additional barricades and signs on Nebraska Highway 2 at the Nebraska City Bridge. The bridge is closed to vehicles and pedestrians because the Missouri River is 10.5 feet above the flood stage, with a swift current. On the Iowa side, the roadway is covered by floodwaters and closed to traffic.

Joining in: Liaison officers with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy have joined the Nebraska emergency operations team. They are part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency defense coordinating team. Also, the number of Nebraska National Guard soldiers and airmen assisting in flood efforts has increased to 148. The state is receiving additional Guard assistance from Illinois and Colorado.

Reporting damage: Nebraska residents with property damage from the flood can call the flood hotline at 855-211-2453 or 855-211-2454 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Iowa residents should call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985.

Pumping up: The City of Omaha Public Works Department said Monday that it costs an estimated $100,000 a month to rent the pumps needed to combat flooding. Also, after heavy rains flooded streets in downtown Omaha, the plan is to add eight more pumps to the seven already in place along Riverfront Drive, said Marty Grate of the Public Works Department.

Flooded streets: Council Bluffs officials said the city's water drainage system is overloaded by the weekend's rainfall and saturated groundwater levels. After weekend rainfall totaling more than 3 inches in some spots, several areas of town were flooded. Water pooled along 28th Street south of Interstate 29; west of Twin City Drive in south Council Bluffs; at Playland Park between I-480 and Avenue B; and on 35th Street between Avenue G and I-29. There are 48 fixed and auxiliary pumps working to dry out flooded portions of Council Bluffs, and more are being ordered, city officials said.

Trail plans: The currently open riverfront trail is expected to close by the end of the week because of a construction project at the pump station near Izard Street, said Aida Amoura, spokeswoman for Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle's office.

Rivers rising: Fremont County, Iowa, is monitoring the Nishnabotna River on the east side of Hamburg. The river was measured at 24.71 feet on Monday, which is 1.71 feet above flood level. The National Weather Service estimated that the Nishnabotna River would reach 25.7 feet Tuesday.
If it does flood, Hamburg would have water on all sides except the north, according to county Emergency Director Mike Crecelius. Another worry: The Missouri River topped 28 feet on Monday, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has predicted that water could begin slopping over the sides of the levee, Crecelius said. Officials are monitoring them closely.
“We'll just cross our fingers and pray,” he said.

More sandbagging: Volunteers age 19 and older are still needed to sandbag at Levi Carter Park, across from Eppley Airfield on Abbott Drive. Shifts are available between 12:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Omaha Parks Director Melinda Pearson said the city aims to fill at least another 150,000 sandbags.

Well tested: Eastern Douglas County residents with private wells are encouraged to get their water tested by the Douglas County Health Department. If the well is near a flooded area it could be contaminated, health officials said. People are advised to drink bottled water if a well looks cloudy or smells or tastes bad, officials said. If the well is contaminated, it is unlikely to be corrected until the flooding ceases, according to the Health Department. Residents can discuss their situation with a county environmental health specialist at 402-444-7485. Water sampling costs $10.

Slow boating: With the water level rising at Lake Manawa in Council Bluffs, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on Monday restricted boats to no-wake speeds.
Officials hope to minimize flooding impacts and protect boaters with the restriction. Lake Manawa State Park is open for day use, but the campground was closed due to flooding concerns.

— World-Herald staff writers Sam Womack, David Hendee and Larry Sparks contributed to this report.

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