The numbers from Nebraska’s 2019 catastrophic flooding are immense and show the continuing need for strong, coordinated recovery work. Total damages exceed $3.4 billion. Floodwaters damaged more than 7,000 homes. Of Nebraska’s 93 counties, 84 qualified for federal disaster assistance. Road and bridge repair will require more than $236 million.
In Iowa, damages total about $1.9 billion, The World-Herald’s Nancy Gaarder reported in analyzing the scope of damages across the Midlands.
Recovery efforts have been underway for months, and Nebraska lawmakers this session will need to approve flood-relief funding. Gov. Pete Ricketts summarized the main needs in his State of the State Address last week:
» $50 million to address the state’s 12.5% share of recovery projects funded primarily by federal support.
» $9.2 million in state funds to aid the 16 counties most severely impacted by the disaster. Those are counties where their required match for federal disaster aid would exceed 20% of their annual budget. Such a burden is excessive on those counties, given the scale of damage they’ve already suffered from the flooding. In the face of these circumstances, it’s appropriate for the state to provide this aid, to demonstrate solidarity in the face of this challenge.
» $3 million to maintain an adequate balance in the Governor’s Emergency Fund to prepare for any future events. It’s important that the state keep that fund properly replenished.
In his remarks to the Legislature, Ricketts rightly noted the dedicated work under extreme conditions by state government organizations — the Nebraska National Guard, State Patrol, state Department of Transportation and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. National Guard personnel, for example, drove nearly 45,000 miles, put in flight time totaling 335 hours and rescued 112 people including 66 by helicopter.
Nebraska lawmakers this session also should approve a $250,000 request as Nebraska’s share of flood control studies by the Army Corps of Engineers, in an effort with Iowa, Missouri and Kansas to create a coordinated multistate preventive strategy.
Nebraska has made considerable progress with flood recovery, but much work remains. Funding these projects is a central step forward as our state continues its recovery.