Attendees at Responsible River Management Meeting in Auburn Shares Flooding Experiences, Suggestions with Representative from Congressman Fortenberry’s Office
A new organization called Responsible River Management recently held a meeting in Auburn with Ryan Broker, a field representative with First District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s Lincoln office. Over 20 people attended the meeting at the Auburn Memorial Library.
Lynn and Elaine Binder of Table Rock are active in the new grassroots organization whose mission statement reads as follows:
“The mission of Responsible River Management is to be a multi state organization that includes individuals, businesses, municipalities and transportation interests who, together, comprise a significant economic impact on the Midwest and the entire United States.
Our goal is to have input and influence to affect change in the priorities, policies, and procedures in the current and future management of the Missouri River and its effects on the Mississippi River Basin, so the economic viability, rural and community cultures, and history will be reserved.”
Individuals Offered Insights
All present at last week’s meeting had an opportunity to offer personal observations about the ongoing Missouri River flooding and how it affects their farming operations, businesses and lives. Some also commented on how they believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could have done a better job in preventing the long-term flooding which is impacting thousands of people and businesses, and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.
Comments for the Congressman
Lynn Binder of Table Rock reported the family’s farming operation includes about 7,000 acres in Iowa and Missouri that are underwater. He said the closure of Missouri River bridges at Nebraska City, Brownville and Rulo force producers to complete an over 200-mile round trip to check on their field, that is if there were highways open to reach them.
John Hawley with the Peru Levee and Drainage District stressed the need for the Corps to correctly repair the Missouri River levees to keep floodwaters from affecting even more people.
Mark Jones with Levee District #8 at Rulo told of the destruction caused by flooding which is occurring in his locale. He commented, “Something has changed with the Missouri River since the mid 1990s,” referring to the more frequent major flooding events.
Steve Stutheit with Stutheit Implement Co. in Syracuse and Auburn noted difficulty in serving that business’ customers living across the river in Iowa and Missouri. He told of hearing that the Missouri Department of Transportation doesn’t intend to repair roads until the levees are fixed.
Rich and Jane Andrew of rural Brownville told about farming on both sides of the river and how that has become complicated by the bridge closings and levee breaches. Rich said local people should have an input on what impacts them regarding the Missouri River Operating Manual. Andrew added that the local levee district was fortunate to have Cooper Nuclear Station employees play an active role in protecting the integrity of the levee south of Brownville.
Brett Adams farms on both sides of the Missouri River near Peru along with his parents, who moved from their home near the levee once the Corps announced plans to release record amounts of water for an extended period of time. Adams said hard work by individuals and the Nebraska National Guard paid off as no levees on the west side of the river in Nemaha County have failed.
Rod Penfield with Cooper Station said the inability for some 140 employees to cross the Missouri River at Brownville amounts to a large additional expense for them. Plus, Penfield said Nebraska Public Power District has spent about $2.5 million on flood control efforts so far.
Kevin Ketter of Auburn reported a third of his employees reside across the river and that has been a complication in serving their clients.
Auburn Mayor Scott Kudrna said the bridge closures have adversely impacted businesses such as Meyer-Earp and Orscheln Farm & Home, while the convenience stores have seen a large increase in business due to Interstate 29 traffic driving Highway 75 through Auburn as a detour. He also mentioned there are a number of employees of Auburn business and industries who live on the east side of the river and are dealing with this traffic problem.
County Clerk Joyce Oakley said getting the main highways reopened to traffic could be complicated if they are federal highways. She suggested possibly placing temporary surfacing on roadways such as rock in the interim until they are ready for final reconstruction.
Randal Smith of Brownville questioned the wisdom in the U.S. Coast Guard’s closing so much of the Missouri River to boat traffic when it may have been possible to not include such a long stretch for an extended time period. Smith owns a riverboat cruise business and the River Inn Resort which have been shut down for months. Also, his wife Jane operates the Lyceum and she reports a large drop in business there since the highway between Brownville and Rock Port, Mo., has been closed.
Mark Kubik with Union Bank & Trust Company said 30 percent of his bank’s business originates in Missouri and he wants to see the levees, roads and utilities fixed as soon as possible.
Bob Hutton, District One Nemaha County Commissioner, said the Board expects to receive many property tax requests following this flooding. He also mentioned a unique problem which Nemaha County faces with McKissicks Island, which is actually on the east side of the Missouri River near Hamburg, Iowa, and has borne the brunt of some of the most serious flooding. Hutton said, “For all we know, McKissicks Island may have a river channel running through it. We won’t know what we are dealing with until the river returns to its banks.”
Peru State College President Dan Hanson said the flooding has directly impacted both college employees and students. He said the inaccessible bridges have greatly complicated the situation for commuters who daily make a trip to the campus.
Field Rep Broker’s Response
Broker told those gathered that afternoon that Congressman Fortenberry frequently hears of the heartache and pain which his First District constituents have been and continue to experience.
“His [Fortenberry’s] primary emphasis has been to help those needing immediate assistance. He will also play an active role in seeking as quick of a recovery for those impacted as possible,” Broker said. “The congressman believes that getting roads and bridges reopened must be a top priority.”
Sept. 1 Meeting Planned with
Sen. Johanns’ Representative
There will be a Sept. 1 meeting to discuss concerns about the current Missouri River flooding with a representative of Senator Mike Johanns. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. next Thursday at the Nemaha County 4-H Building on the fairgrounds in Auburn.
This will be a question and answer session that is open to the public. Any individuals who have been impacted by the flood are encouraged to attend the meeting according to its sponsors.