For the second time this month, governors from three states voiced their desire to be more involved in managing the Missouri River.
The group — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who were joined this time by Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers — met with the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday to hear updates and talk about rebuilding efforts. They spoke to a gaggle of reporters after the meeting.
Ricketts said the four states are committed to working with the corps to examine basin and levee management practices going forward. He said the group is looking at recommendations that, in the past, perhaps didn’t have enough “political will” behind them to succeed.
“You’ve got the commitment here from all four states to be able to work together to really bring a different … urgency and different will to getting something done that maybe hasn’t been done in the past,” Ricketts said in the lobby of the Council Bluffs Police Department headquarters, where the meeting was held.
Parson suggested the inclusion of an outside agency in addition to the corps to help oversee Missouri River management.
“We want a seat at the table to make sure, moving forward, (we’re involved in) how those issues are addressed,” he said.
Ricketts said the corps has been receptive to the states’ request to be more involved.
The most immediate concerns include plugging holes and repairing damaged levees.
Reynolds, noting that the corps doesn’t have the funding to complete long-term rebuilding, called on Congress to secure necessary funds.
Ricketts said that after short-term problems are addressed, the corps expects to look at Missouri River chokepoints — narrow areas where water backed up during flooding — to determine possible alterations.
The long-term work, Ricketts said, will include reassessing how the river is managed, including basin capacities and the strength and height of levees.
“If you build a levee higher, that gives you more capacity,” he said.
Reynolds said two of Iowa’s four major levee breaches are expected to be filled by the end of July, a process that was initially expected to take a year.
“We’re optimistic about the process and the progress that they’re making,” she said. “We still have a long recovery and road ahead.”
India Association of Nebraska, Hindu Temple give $54,000 to flood relief
The India Association of Nebraska and the Hindu Temple of Omaha donated $54,000 to the United Way of the Midlands’ flood relief fund.
The money was raised in response to March flooding that devastated much of Nebraska and Iowa.
The India Association — a nonprofit organization that promotes understanding and awareness of Indian culture, language and heritage — and the Hindu Temple held a luncheon on March 31 at the Hindu Temple Community Center.
The event drew more than 1,300 people and was put on by more than 200 volunteers from the Indian community, according to the United Way.
The check for the donation was presented Sunday at the Hindu Temple Social Hall.
Local group will build 100 beds for flood victims
Sleep in Heavenly Peace Omaha is building 100 beds for flood victims Friday and Saturday at the Lowe’s at 3333 N. 147th St.
Volunteers from four states will be building the beds, which includes cutting and sanding lumber, assembling bed frames, staining the frames and fire-branding them with the group’s logo.
The beds will then be delivered in subsequent weekends.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a nationwide organization that has grown to more than 170 chapters in the past 16 months. The group’s mission is that “no kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
Each child receives a new bed frame, mattress and bedding set.
The Omaha chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace started in October 2018. Upon the delivery of this weekend’s build, the organization will have helped more than 300 children. The cost of getting each child off the floor is about $175.
Those interested in helping or applying for a bed can go to www.shpbeds.org.
While the group generally delivers only to children who live in Sarpy and Douglas Counties, the local chapter has temporarily expanded its delivery zone to include areas affected by recent flooding.
Flood victims should use the ZIP code 68101 so they are identified as flood victims in this area.
Hy-Vee donates $207,733 to American Red Cross
Hy-Vee Inc. announced Friday that $207,733 has been raised to benefit the American Red Cross of Nebraska and Southwest Iowa following flooding in early March that devastated communities in Nebraska and Iowa.
During a monthlong campaign, customer donations at 28 stores in Nebraska and Council Bluffs totaled $157,733, with an additional $50,000 coming from Hy-Vee.
A check for the total amount was presented to the American Red Cross of Nebraska and Southern Iowa on Friday.
Disaster recovery centers to open
The State of Nebraska and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open disaster recovery centers in Boone, Burt, Knox and Nance Counties.
Center locations and hours are:
Boone County: St. Edward Fire Hall, 1302 State Highway 39, St. Edward; open Tuesday through May 4, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Burt County: Tekamah City Auditorium dining room, 1315 K. St., Tekamah; open Monday through May 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Knox County: Center Community Center, 207 Main St., Center; open Tuesday through May 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nance County: City Auditorium, 313 Willard Ave., Genoa; open Monday through May 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At the centers, recovery specialists from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration will provide information on services and help survivors complete or check the status of their applications.
‘The show must go on’: Flooding forces Junkstock to new location, but enthusiasts are not deterred
At Sycamore Family Farms, people are used to seeing open green fields, century-old sycamore trees and — three times a year — junk.
The 135-acre farm is known as the site of Junkstock, a three-day festival of antiques, handmade goods and yummy food.
Last month, the farm’s fields, trees and buildings were submerged in water and mud after Nebraska’s historic floods. But Junkstock organizers only hesitated for a minute before deciding that “the show must go on,” organizer Danelle Schlegelmilch said.
Junkstock found a temporary home for its 150 vendors this weekend in Springfield — the Sarpy County Fairgrounds at 100 Main St. The festival continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We really depend on the event to help us get money to fix the farm,” Schlegelmilch said. “And then all these businesses count on us, too.”
Vendors Kyley Rief and Abby Kreikemeier, owners of Davi Jo Vintage, have been selling their handcrafted home goods and furniture at Junkstock since 2014.
The best friends, who grew up in West Point, Nebraska, said that they missed the quaintness and charm of Sycamore Family Farms but that they were thankful that the festival could be relocated.
They work out of their garages in Omaha to prepare for Junkstock every year.
They said they’re encouraged that people are willing to spend their money on the creations they’ve worked hard on.
“Seeing past customers coming through, always supporting us and buying something here and there, it makes it worth it for us to keep doing it,” Rief said.
They got the name for the business from their fathers, who enjoyed craftsmanship and woodworking. Kreikemeier named her daughter, Lily Davi, after her father, David. Rief’s middle name, Jo, came from her own father.
Schlegelmilch said vendors come from all over the country, including Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Texas.
Maggie Naffziger of Fort Collins, Colorado, has been selling her upcycled clothing at Junkstock for two years. She started making women’s skirts from secondhand men’s shirts because she liked the way the longer hemline fit her taller figure. Plus, she wanted clothes that were sustainable.
Then she started using the shirts to make wine sleeves, dog collars and even hair accessories. She said she missed Sycamore Family Farms this year but liked the openness of the fairgrounds that allowed vendors to interact with one another a little more.
“That’s why you do small business — you get to meet people and customers,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
It’s impossible not to notice the variety of dogs roaming the booths with their owners. Megan Curtis, a teacher at Papillion-La Vista South High School, loves that she can bring her entire family, including Bernard, her English bulldog. Plus, the change in location this year made it easier for her mother, who lives across the street from the fairgrounds, to make it to the festival.
Schlegelmilch said it was hard to tell how many people showed up this weekend. But she was pleased with the turnout.
She said the summer edition of Junkstock, June 21-23, is set to be back at Sycamore Family Farms.