Sixteen months after devastating floods wreaked havoc in the Midwest, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Systems Restoration Team has made significant progress restoring levee breaches and repairing damaged embankments along the Missouri River and its tributaries. To date, the Corps has closed 28 of 32 breaches.
Clear Creek residents who live near the Platte River and Thomas Lakes area are reaping the benefits of these restoration efforts as the Corps team and contractors recently finished repairs on a levee breach and scour hole.
Referred to as damage area 12, the severe erosion caused by this scour hole sent one home near Thomas Lakes into the Platte River were it eventually got stuck underneath a bridge, said Kyle Madson, a project site manager and member of the District’s Flood Recovery Construction Office.
In February, the nearby Clear Creek levee system was returned to its pre-flood height by contractors, and for the past several months the District has been working to restore the levee to its pre-flood condition.
The riprap material typically used for these types of repairs, scour holes and breaches, is quarried granite from Arkansas. It is shipped by rail to Meade, Nebraska, where it is offloaded and trucked to the various project sites.
Madson explained that it is important to have good communication and build strong relationships with local residents during the actual construction phase of the project.
“I’ve been working closely with the homeowners association at Thomas Lakes to keep them informed about the scope of the work, daily start times and also what they can expect as far as disturbances,” said Madson. “We’ve had a lot of heavy equipment and trucks hauling riprap, dirt and other materials moving through the area, so we work with them and let them know when we’ll be there and when we’ll be done.
Madson said the few home owners that he’s talked to are excited to see the added level of protection that the restoration project brings.
“I think that they’re happy that we’ve been able to complete this project in a timely manner,” he added.
Last year, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts referred to the 2019 flood event as the worst in the state’s history and declared a state of emergency on March 19, 2019.
According to the Omaha District Corps of Engineers more than 350 miles of district managed levees along the Missouri River were either damaged or destroyed.
The overall success at responding to this natural disaster was the result of teamwork, effective communication and collaboration with multiple partners including: surveyors, drill crews, sponsors, contractors, real-estate professionals, and the emergency operations center among others, said Justin Ketelsen, a structural engineer and project manager with the Omaha District Systems Restorations Team.
“The teams came together as a joint PDT (project delivery team) and found ways to solve every problem that they faced. It didn't matter what the problem was, they found a way to work through it and came up with solution after solution,” Ketelsen said. “Effective communication is one of the hardest things to get right, but in my opinion it is one of the biggest keys to success.”
Ketelsen explained that through extraordinary effort by everyone on the team, both within USACE and with the sponsors, the Omaha District successfully repaired levee system after levee system to offer a measure of protection for those people whom the levees protect.
“Whether it was a challenge for engineering, real estate, borrow, funding, schedule, construction, the team always rose the challenge, solved the problems and kept moving forward to make it a successful project,” Ketelsen added.
Depending on the size and scope of damage, repairing a breached levee system can take anywhere from several months to several years to complete.