While the Third District of Nebraska is still feeling the impact of last year’s historic floods, we are fortunately seeing recovery efforts along the Missouri River on all levels – local, state, and federal. On the federal level, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (H.R. 7575), commonly known as WRDA, passed the House this week. WRDA is the legislation Congress and the President periodically enact to authorize federal water management projects across the nation.
We saw the vulnerabilities in our water infrastructure during the 2019 flooding. A levee near Peru, Nebraska was breached. The Peru Levee Board estimated a staggering $60 million in damages. Last August, I saw the damage for myself when I toured the levee and surrounding area with State Senator Julie Slama, whose district includes Peru.
Peru was hit with another blow when federal agencies deemed the levee ineligible for aid based on burdensome government criteria. Since then, leaders from the community, the state level, and the federal level – what I like to call Team Nebraska – have been working tirelessly to fix this issue for our state. For my part in Congress, I worked to include language in WRDA which would allow levees that abide by certain criteria to be eligible to receive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assistance to repair damage from 2019 flooding. It was a huge win to get this language included in WRDA, which passed unanimously in the House on July 29, 2020.
However, finding ways to repair existing infrastructure alone will not protect us from future floods. Along with current recovery efforts, we also must prioritize flood prevention. In the last decade alone, we have seen two historic floods, and we cannot afford to wait for the next one. For this reason, WRDA also included language similar to the Lower Missouri Flood Prevention Program Act, which I helped introduce.
This language would expand the scope of the Lower Missouri Basin study to improve flood prevention on the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa, and South Sioux City, Nebraska, to its confluence with the Mississippi River. In addition, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be required to study, design, and construct water resources development projects and modify existing ones to provide flood protection for communities and develop a system plan for reducing flood risk and improving flood resiliency.
The Missouri River is an American icon – its waters brought Lewis and Clark most of the way to the Pacific Ocean. However, we in Nebraska also know the dangers it can pose all too well. I am proud to join hardworking Nebraskans who have given their all to rebuild from the flood and everyone’s cooperation to work toward the goal of recovery. The passage of this year’s WRDA, with provisions to significantly help Nebraska, was a team effort and is one of the many reasons I am thankful to be a part of this great state. We truly are Nebraska Strong.