Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Levee Project
Spring ice jams have been a recurrent problem on the Lower Platte River, causing widespread flood damage to homes, businesses, and farmland. In 1993, flooding from an ice jam in the Ashland area closed Interstate 80 and local highways and endangered the National Guard Camp and the City of Lincoln's wellfield.
Existing levees provide some measure of protection against such floods, but they are not built to uniform standards. In cases where levees are built of different materials and to different heights on opposite sides of the river, or where one side has levees and the other does not, flood damage can be intensified on the less well-protected side. Along some segments of the river, levees on opposite sides are too close together, creating a bottleneck which can worsen floods downstream.
To correct these problems and improve flood protection along the river corridor, three natural resources districts have joined with state and federal sponsors in the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Levee Project.
The project will involve improvements to 14 miles of levees on the Platte and Elkhorn Rivers in Sarpy and Saunders Counties. The levees will be made uniform along both sides of the river and will be able to withstand a 50-year flood once improvements are completed.
Near Thomas Lakes (just south of where the Elkhorn joins the Platte), notches will be cut into an existing levee on the west side of the Platte, and a new levee will be constructed further back to remove a bottleneck.
Further south, a levee was built around the Ashland National Guard Camp. Across the river, just north of the U.S. Highway 6 crossing, new levees will be constructed near the Beacon View housing development. Five homes will be directly affected by these new levees, and owners will be given the option of selling their homes to the project sponsors or having them moved to higher lots in the Beacon View area. Twenty-three other nearby homeowners will be given the option of selling their homes or having them raised to a safe elevation at their current locations.
To mitigate the impact of the levee improvements on endangered species such as the least tern, the piping plover, and the pallid sturgeon, the project will also involve approximately $2 million worth of habitat restoration on the river. A short segment of new channel will be created on the river side of the new levee near Thomas Lakes, and an island in the center channel will be cleared for plover and tern habitat.
The Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Levee Project is being sponsored on the Federal level by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Local sponsors are the Lower Platte North, Lower Platte South, and Papio-Missouri River NRDs.
The estimated project cost is $13.7 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will provide $8.6 million of the funding through the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources could provide up to 67 percent ($3.5 million) of the local costs through the Nebraska Resources Development Fund. The remaining $1.7 million will be split among the three natural resources districts (Papio-Missouri River NRD, $854,710; Lower Platte North NRD, $598,297; Lower Platte South NRD, $256,413).
Project construction is scheduled to being in August 2002, with completion of all phases set for November 2004.