Municipal Water Leader
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Volume 6 Issue 5 May/June 2019 Governor Pete Ricketts: Recovering from Nebraska’s Historic Floods

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he flooding that hit my home state of Nebraska and other Midwestern states in mid-March 2019 was one of the most serious natural disasters in Nebraska's history. The floods displaced thousands of people, shut down a third of Nebraska’s 10,000 miles of state highway, damaged or destroyed dozens of bridges, and wiped out dams and dikes. This issue of Municipal Water Leader is devoted to the stories of the fight against the flood and the recovery efforts that have followed.

In our cover story, we interview Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts about the devastating floods; the state’s response; and how the state can help Nebraskan well owners, farmers, and local governments. We also hear from one of Nebraska’s representatives in Washington, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), about his efforts to help the state through federal legislation.

Nebraska’s natural resources districts (NRDs) were the entities responsible for much of the on-the-ground response to the flood. The Papio-Missouri River NRD, which includes stretches of the Platte, Missouri, and Elkhorn Rivers, was one of the hardest hit. General Manager John Winkler tells us about the record-breaking flooding in his district and its ongoing repair efforts. Lower Platte South NRD General Manager Paul Zillig explains why his district’s flood control infrastructure performed well and shares his insights for other managers. We also speak with Dean Edson, the executive director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts, about how his organization lobbies for NRDs’ interests. State Senator Brett Lindstrom was instrumental in extending the Papio-Missouri River NRD’s bonding authority; he explains the Nebraska Legislature’s role in flood control.

Finally, we speak with Steve Stockton, the retired director of civil works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about what local entities like NRDs and municipalities should know about working with the Army Corps.

Though the recent floods were devastating for Nebraska, many of our interviewees this month attest that the people of the state are resilient, strong, and determined to rebuild. We applaud Governor Ricketts, Congressman Fortenberry, John Winkler, Paul Zillig, Dean Edson, Senator Lindstrom, and all the others whose determination and hard work saved lives this year and will contribute to the future safety of Nebraska’s citizens.

Kris Polly is editor-in-chief of Municipal Water Leader and Irrigation Leader magazines. He is also president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations, marketing, and publishing company he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@wateretrategies.com