- Associated Press - Monday, September 29, 2014

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - A Grand Island flood control project that was set for completion next year is four years behind schedule and $13 million over budget.

The Grand Island City Council was briefed on the Northwest Flood Control Project last week, and the delay was reported two months ago to the Hall County Board of Supervisors, the Grand Island Independent reported (https://bit.ly/1mGi2Wt ). Both are financial partners in the project.

John Petersen, project manager and lead designer with JEO Consulting Group, which designed the project, said it’s about 60 percent finished.

The project was delayed in part because of the time required to clean up buried explosives from land that once housed an ordnance plant and an insufficient drainage map. The project originally relied on watershed data from the 1980s.

Officials say the project is over budget because of an abnormal jump in construction prices over the project’s 10-year development. Grand Island Public Works Director John Collins said the price of earth-moving equipment rose in part because of China buying up American construction material and equipment. Diesel prices also increased.

The cost of moving dirt rose from 75 cents per cubic yard at the start of the project to $2.50 per cubic yard, said Lalit Jha, senior project manager with the consulting firm.

“I’m really disappointed,” Councilwoman Peg Gilbert said of the project’s cost increase. “This just holds us back a lot.”

Grand Island Projects Manager Terry Brown and Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity, who is overseeing the city’s flood maps, say the project is more important now than ever before, because flood insurance laws have changed.

Those changes include the 2012 Biggert Waters Act, which modified how flood insurance rates are determined. Jha said it also removed a subsidy on insurance premiums that ultimately caused a cost increase to individual property owners’ flood insurance.

Another law, the Grimm Waters Act of 2014, was passed to help cushion the financial impact by phasing in the new insurance rates over several years.

The project includes building barriers to hold back water during high rains so creeks don’t overflow and spill out across flat land in Hall County. Overall, the flood control project will remove about 1,500 Grand Island homes, 55 businesses and 10,000 acres of Hall County cropland from the flood plain.


Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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