FEMA Requiring Size Increase Of Bellevue Levee, To Cost $24 Mil

Paul Gutierrez

BELLEVUE (KPTM) - The 18-mile Missouri River Levee System must get an upgrade because of a new requirement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA is calling for parts of the levee to increase in size by one to two feet. The demand comes post-Hurricane Katrina and is in response to redrawn maps of Missouri and Mississippi River basins.

"It's very frustrating from the standpoint that I think many of the federal rules and regulations we deal with are one-size fits all," said John Winkler, the general manager for the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District. "I don't think there's anything to fix in the first place because the levee is battle tested and even withstood the Flood of 2011."

The price tag for the renovations is projected at $24 million. Where the funding will come from, however, is still up in the air.

"There's a mandate handed down, I can understand that, but there's no assistance to help with it," said Winkler.

Not complying with the new requirement is not an option for the district because it could lead to serious consequences.

"It's a possibility that Offutt (Air Force Base) would be eliminated from any future missions to expand the base and could even be in jeopardy of the base closing entirely."

That in mind, the decision to obey is a no-brainer even though questions about the project remain. There's also a timeline on the project. FEMA says levee renovations must be complete by 2017. Right now, possible funding sources include the City of Bellevue, Sarpy County and the U.S. Department of Defense.