At the Nov. 21 Dodge County Board of Supervisors meeting, Fremont City Administrator Brian Newton asked the county to consider entering into a partnership with Fremont and potentially the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District (NRD) to address drainage issues in the Rawhide Creek watershed, which extends out between the east side of Fremont and the Elkhorn River.
“As you know, it’s so flat, the fall between Fremont and the Elkhorn River is relatively nothing, and water just backs up and just can’t get out of area fast enough,” Newton told the board. “I think the secret’s going to be to develop partnerships and try to figure out how we capture that water and release it slow without flooding.”
The board has not yet begun to delve into the possibility of the partnership, Board Chairman Bob Missel said on Monday, and any talks of such a partnership are still in the preliminary stages, with no formal discussions occurring yet, officials say.
Tom Mountford, the assistant general manager for the Lower Platte North NRD, says that the NRD hasn’t been formally contacted about a partnership just yet, but expects they will.
Fremont Public Works Director Dave Goedeken said the city would hope to work with the county, the NRD and possibly with Douglas County as well to look at ways to help improve drainage in the Rawhide Creek area: projects like improving and cleaning out the ditches that currently make up the drainage system, or creating storage cells that could give water a place to stand instead of flushing into the drainage system and getting backed up.
But everything is still preliminary and speculative. The first step is to try and develop those partnerships, identify the roles that everyone would play and potentially work up to a study that would assess the needs for the area, Mountford said.
It wouldn’t be the first time that area stakeholders have attempted to look at the ditch and drainage system around Rawhide Creek, which was constructed between 1909 and 1929.
The NRD was petitioned in the 1990s to create an “improvement project area,” with help from the county and the city, that would have explored drainage in the Rawhide Creek area. A study determined that landowners would be assessed upward of $4 million to help pay for the project, and ultimately, landowners overwhelmingly rejected the proposal after public input was sought, Mountford said.
Both Missel and Newton expressed hope at the November meeting that the NRD would take the lead on such a project. Mountford suggested that the NRD board might be anxious to take the lead after the attempt in the ‘90s. But he said things would be clearer once the different entities met formally to discuss the possibilities.
“That’s probably the first step,” Mountford said. “Who would take the lead with that? That’s not really decided yet. But it’ll become clearer once we have a chance to get together.”
Fremont’s flat terrain makes it particularly vulnerable to flooding and drainage issues, Goedeken said.
“If you drive around town, every time we get a really heavy rain you get water standing in the streets where it can’t go down the streets fast enough,” he said. “The towns were just built very flat, and the water just can’t get out fast enough.”
Additionally, increased development in the area could contribute to drainage issues as well, Mountford said, though he noted that a study would be needed to quantify that impact.
There’s been increased attention to assessing the area’s drainage system, especially after a series of particularly heavy rainstorms in 2016 led to heavy flooding in the area.
An assessment of the Rawhide Creek watershed would be one of three projects involving a combination of the city, county and NRD officials focused on drainage and flooding issues in the Fremont area.
The city, county, Village of Inglewood and Lower Platte North NRD have been in an interlocal agreement since 2003 for a project that would develop a plan to reduce flood risk for Dodge County residents. That project is still in the midst of conducting a study with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Initially, the study looked at the feasibility of building out a levee system around Inglewood, Fremont and other parts of Dodge County, but that idea was ultimately shelved after the cost of that project was determined to be greater than any potential costs incurred by future flood damage.
In May, the county board voted to approve the final stage of the study, which is now looking at ways in which property owners could access federal funding that can be used to upgrade their properties to make them more resistant against flood risks. While they approved contributing funding to the project, board members expressed frustration that the county had been contributing funding for years, but the project was still in the study phase.
In another project, the NRD is working with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to do a flood risk analysis on properties not included in the Army Corps of Engineers study. Mountford said the NRD will be entering into that project next year.
Local residents will get the chance to step into Christmas past at the annual Holiday Open House at May Museum tonight.
There will be traditional German Springerle cookies, classically decorated Christmas trees, and holiday music courtesy of Richard Rader from 7-9 tonight in the decorated Louis E. May Museum at 1643 N. Nye Ave.
The open house is free to the public, and according to Museum Secretary Pam Pettitt it is a great opportunity for people to experience the historical Nye House in a different light.
“There’s something special about being in the museum at night,” she said. “It just has a different feeling to it — and there’s not a lot of chances throughout the year to see what it’s like inside during the evening.”
Attendees of the open house will get to bask in the unique aura of the May Museum after dark while enjoying light refreshments provided by Kate Clausen.
Clausen has a unique historical connection to the museum, as she is the great, great-grandaughter of Nye family’s tea maid.
The Nye House — which houses the May Museum — was built by Theron Nye in 1874 before being remodeled to near what it looks like today by his son during a period of time between 1901-1912.
One refreshment available during the open house will be traditional German Springerle cookies made by Joe Dickmeyer. German Springerle cookies feature an embossed design which is made by pressing a mold onto rolled dough and allowing the impression to dry before baking.
Museum staff and volunteers also have decorated 10 Christmas trees which are adorned with vintage decorations and are located throughout the various rooms in the museum.
“We feel that this is our Christmas gift to the community,” Museum Director Jeff Kappeler told the Tribune in 2014. “Some people may feel that they can’t afford to come, so this is a good time to see the museum decorated at Christmas time.”
Rader, a local pianist, also will be providing musical entertainment as guests peruse the museum.
The May Museum Holiday Gift Shop will be open during the open house where people can buy holiday themed ornaments — like tiny houses and German smokers.
The May Museum Holiday Gift Shop is also open from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
A collision in Saunders County on Sunday led to one fatality, according to the Saunders County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident occurred at 7 p.m. about one and a half miles west of Mead on Nebraska Highway 92, when an eastbound pickup truck lost control and collided with a semi-tractor trailer driven by James T. Cooler, 53, of Smithland, Iowa.
The driver of the pickup was Scott Havener, 58, of Fremont. The passenger, Peggy R. Havener, 52, of Fremont, was pronounced dead at the Saunders County Medical Center, officials say.
After the first collision, a third pickup truck was eastbound and collided with the first pickup truck, yielding only minor damage.
Alcohol was not suspected as a contributing factor, and it is not known at this time if seatbelts were in use.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) will hold a public information meeting regarding proposed design changes to the Fremont Southeast Beltway project tonight.
The meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Fremont Learning Center — Lenihan Gym at 130 E. Ninth St.
The proposed project is a new approximately 3.2 mile, four-lane divided expressway on the south side of Fremont that will connect U.S. Highway 77 and U.S. Highway 275 and is designed to improve traffic flow and regional connectivity between U.S. 77, U.S. 275, and U.S. Highway 30.
Proposed changes to the project include incorporating roundabout intersections at Downing Street and the U.S. 275 interchange ramp terminals, as well as removing the Yager Road connection to the Beltway.
“What we are going to present to the public is the elimination of the Yager Road intersection and a roundabout at the Downing Road intersection,” NDOT District 2 Engineer Tim Weander said at a Fremont City Council meeting in October. “The roundabout will allow for that free flow of traffic, better flow of trucks coming off Downing from the Hormel site in lieu of the Platte Avenue extension.”
According to information released by NDOT, the proposed changes were made in direct response to public input from a public open house and continued design analysis.
At that city council meeting on Oct. 30, council members approved a preliminary financial agreement between the city and the state to share the cost of the Southeast Beltway project.
The agreement, which was passed unanimously by the council, caps the city’s cost for the project at a total of $20 million. The total cost for the Southeast Beltway project is estimated at $43 million.
During a discussion about the preliminary financial agreement, Weander said the goal is to have the beltway completed by the summer of 2022.
“We are trying to get traffic on the new pavement by fall of 2021 and the project will probably not be fully completed until the summer of 2022,” he said.
The public information open house meeting is being held to provide information and updates regarding the project, currently in the design phase, and to receive the public’s input, according to NDOT.
Personnel from NDOT will be present to answer questions and receive comments at the meeting.
More information regarding the proposed project can be found online at dot.nebraska.gov/projects/future-projects/fremont-southeast-beltway/.