LINCOLN — A Nebraska senator’s proposal to help solve the state’s lack of a coordinated flood mitigation strategy received no opposition in front of the Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 5.
LB 1201, introduced by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, would “create a flood task force to review current flood mitigation and planning efforts and make recommendations on future flood and mitigation planning.”
In March 2019, Nebraska experienced historic flooding that caused at least three deaths, over $2 billion in damage and emergency declarations in 104 cities, 84 counties and five tribal areas, Bostelman said.
The results from a comprehensive interim study of the environmental action plans of the state, including vulnerability assessments, risks, economic impacts and mitigation strategies, made it clear that Nebraska does not currently have a coordinated strategy to reduce future flood risks, according to Bostelman.
“We currently plan for drought and groundwater, why not flooding?” Bostelman asked the committee, of which he is also vice chairman.
The proposal would work alongside the resources and agencies already in place, such as the task force created by Gov. Pete Ricketts that would analyze housing and critical infrastructure resources in flood-impacted areas, as well as the work and mitigation efforts of Nebraska’s natural resource districts, Bostelman said. The pooling together of resources will provide a statewide comprehensive plan and positive benefits for Nebraska.
“With all resources on the table,” Bostelman said, “the chances of finding federal or private funding to create a plan are greater, meaning less cost to the state and a stronger plan to mitigate flood risk.”
Committee member Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston said a proposal like LB 1201 has a lot of merits and would help individuals and communities understand the resources available to them so they know where to go and who to call on.
Albrecht said she also appreciates Bostelman’s initiative and work on LB 1201 because many senators from districts where there is still flooding aren’t able to jump right in and figure out future steps and mitigation, she said.
Jeff Henson, business development director and senior mitigation planner representing JEO Consulting Group, testified in support of the bill. Henson cited a 2018 study done by the National Institute of Building Sciences that found mitigation projects, like those the proposed task force would initiate, resulted in average savings of $6 for every $1 spent on construction.
“Mitigation works,” Henson said, “but standalone efforts are not sufficient. We need stronger planning at the state level to set a course for what actions will be needed and identify resources available to get the job done.”
Larry Mach, a county supervisor for Saunders County, testified in the neutral position and said his main concern with the bill is that funds would be passed from one agency to another, to another, without any real action taking place.
“Why can’t we get something fixed when the time is allotted,” Mach said, “instead of waiting and waiting and doing studies and waiting.”