By Zane EcklundMay 1, 2019
OMAHA, Neb. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District responded to the devastating unregulated runoff event of 2019 by activating the Omaha Systems Restoration Team, whose mission is to provide regional, time-sensitive repair of levees, dams and other flood control structures that were damaged throughout the Missouri River Basin.
The OSRT began operations March 18, 2019 and is comprised of personnel throughout the district who possess a variety of professional specialties such as engineering, construction, contracting, public administration, and real estate.
"By establishing the OSRT, the Omaha District is able to focus directly on flood recovery in addition to the rest of the business of the district that is critical to the needs of the nation. We are also able to pull directly from other Corps districts from across country, in addition to contracting for construction and engineering support to fulfill our needs," OSRT Chief Bret Budd said.
Jeff Bohlken, a project manager for Omaha District was picked to serve on the OSRT because of past experience responding to disasters in a civilian role and with the Air National Guard.
"Having something so close to home where I've seen co-workers, neighbors and friends be impacted, it brings another sense of stress but also at the same time community and teamwork to know the people you're impacting live in your own neighborhood," Bohlken said.
The OSRT is in place to maximize the Corps of Engineer's flood recovery efforts. The team seeks to streamline internal processes, accelerate design work, award contracts, monitor construction activities, and solve critical problems that arise along the way. These actions will result in an immediate flood risk reduction, as well as a significant improvement in reducing future long-term flood risk.
Most of the work done by the OSRT is being funded by Public Law 84-99, which gives USACE the authority to engage in flood fighting and rescue operations if those missions are beyond local and state capabilities. During a flood, USACE has the authority to strengthen flood control structures, make temporary levee raises, in addition to providing supplies and 24-hour technical assistance.
There are two stages to PL84-99, which are emergency management and the rehabilitation stage. The Omaha District has been in the emergency management phase since flooding began and now the rehabilitation phase will focus on long-term fixes and repair of the flood control system.
"I think the biggest message the OSRT is trying to get out right now is we're working diligently on trying to assess the system because first we have to assess it and make a determination on what the impacts and damages are before we can go back and fix it so we can try and make a more resilient system when we're done," Bohlken said.
The OSRT has awarded several contracts thus far and work has begun to repair levees throughout Omaha District's jurisdiction. Levee L575 has projects $7.5 million and $12 million that aim to repair breaches near Percival and Hamburg, Iowa. The majority of material for both breach closures is expected to be dredged from the Missouri River. The work near Percival is expected to take 60 calendar days to complete and 80 calendar days for the work in the vicinity of Hamburg.
A $6 million contract has been awarded to repair a 1,200 foot breach on Levee L611-614 south of Highway 34 in Mills County, Iowa. The repair work will provide flood risk reduction to areas behind the levee while work is being done on Highway 34 and I-29. Most of the material used to repair the levee is expected to be sourced from material left by March floods. The work is expected to take 45 calendar days.
"By establishing the OSRT, the Omaha District is able to focus directly on flood recovery in addition to the rest of the business of the district that is critical to the needs of the nation. We are also able to pull directly from other Corps districts from across country, in addition to contracting for construction and engineering support to fulfill our needs."
More information about the OSRT's mission can be found here: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Omaha-District-System-Restoration-Team/.