Teens Pitch-In to Keep River at Bay

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The land and infrastructure in South Omaha are some of the city's key assets to protect in a time of flooding.

On Friday, teenagers were making sandbags to protect the Missouri River Wastewater Treatment Plant. They remember the most basic problems caused by the flooding three years ago.

Leonard Jones said, “I don't want that again. I want to flush my toilet."

The 150 youngsters were part of UNO's SummerWorks Program. They get $7.25 an hour for nine weeks. They’re usually cleaning up the city parks but this need is more critical even if the muscles are aching more.

Taylor Peak said it’s worth the effort. “If I have to for my community, I will."

This was the second day of making sandbags.

To give you an idea of how bad it was in 2011, these youngsters were needed for 10-straight days.

The lessons here, the university believes, will provide better opportunities for the teenagers once out of school. After all, there's a waiting list for this.

Josh Bullocks, with the SummerWorks program said, “These kids develop job skills. Come down here and filling up the sandbags, they learn a hard lesson. It's about work ethic, getting the job done and doing the job with pride.”

It doesn't hurt that the motivating words come from a former Husker standout and NFL defensive back Josh Bullocks.

The teens seem to understand the greater purpose of what's happening on this shift.

The city has a just-in-case attitude here. Many sandbags are already in place next to the levee. More might be needed.

In a conference call with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday afternoon, the same people who are being sued over how they handled the 2011 flood, talked about the Gavin's Point Dam in South Dakota. There was a lot of controversy during 2011 over the water release then. On Friday we learned it is low -- holding only 16-percent capacity.

Much of the flooding here has been attributed to the heavy rains downstream in Iowa and Nebraska.

Cities and businesses spent hundreds of millions of dollars in 2011 trying to keep the Missouri River at bay. While farmland is still recovering today, we still remember the 104 days during which many were on edge. Flooding dominated the news.

Omaha’s Isabelle Kane said, "I don't want it to flood again and have everyone freaking out."

Kane stopped by the riverfront to remember and compare.

That's why there's so much interest in 2014. Anytime we're talking about dams and flood stages it takes us back to when the river was a lot higher.

The river lived up to its Muddy Mo nickname on Friday. There was so much debris in the water that recreational use of the river may be restricted for weeks – perhaps even over the important Fourth of July weekend.


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