WAHOO – Monday morning’s rain caused a little delay for Federal Emergency Management Agency inspectors in Wahoo to check out damage from March flooding.
A team arrived at the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District at 9 a.m. to head out to the spillway below Lake Wanahoo. They had a several hour wait, until the rain clouds and thunder cleared.
FEMA is beginning the process of assessment of public infrastructure damage. FEMA Public Information Officer Nate Custer said the initial days after the March floods were spent helping individuals with assessment and their damage claims.
But, he said 76 of the state’s 93 counties have public entities that have damages caused to facilities and infrastructure from a combination of blizzard and flooding conditions that hammered the state.
FEMA has begun hiring recently retired U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) engineers to expand the technical capabilities of emergency managers and speed up recovery.
Assigned Inspector Bobby Smith is one of the retired Corps engineers and was with the FEMA team on Monday.
Smith said his past experience as an engineer can be put to work helping to quickly assess and provide possible strategies for repair.
There only is a 120-day window to get this work done, he said, and there are pages and pages of public infrastructures and facilities that are on the list to inspect.
After asking a series of questions to NRD staff, the FEMA team went into the spillway just to the south of the Lake Wanahoo dam.
NRD General Manager Eric Gottschalk said damage here was caused by the intense pressure of the water coming through the opening in the dam,
Rocks, some weighing about 500 pounds, had been placed at the bottom of the plunge pool as part of the spillway structure. Gottschalk said the force of the water shooting into the spillway dislodged many rocks and pushed them about 125 feet downstream.
“It’s covering about two-thirds of the channel,” he said.
While high water can still flow over the rocks, they need to be cleared to open up the channel for normal flows. There is an additional unknown about the bottom of the plunge pool where the rocks were.
“We don’t know if it created a hole there as well,” he added.
The FEMA team on Monday inspected the site to document the damage that the NRD reported. Various measurements and other information have now become a part of the file.
Smith said the team now has two days to make its report. Within 60 days, additional analysis, including costs, will take place before final review and sign off on FEMA funding.
Wanahoo was not the only site on the map for the FEMA team on Monday. They also inspected the breaches on the Rawhide levee system near Fremont.
NRD Assistant Manager Tom Mountford said this approximately 10 mile system has been in place for many years and breached in several places in March, allowing flood waters to pour into Fremont.
The goal is to get FEMA assistance to repair both of these public structures.