HEARTLAND FLOOD: FEMA assessing damage as farmers ponder land's future

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 5:03 PM CDT
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Nearly two months after the Heartland Flood, some Nebraska landowners are still waiting on word from FEMA to help them recover the disaster that is still drastically affecting their lives.

Before the flood waters came up, cattle were on the move along the river looking for a better place to graze.

What was once 240 acres of cornfield and pastures has all been taken over by what the Platte River left behind.

“We used to run a cornfield and chop the corn for our cattle; and now, as you can see, it’s sand,” said Wendy Suttles, whose family has operated the land here for decades “This was our main cornfield our main source of feed from our livestock.”

FEMA is here recording the damage created by the flood. The high water claimed eight jettis that were once here.

“The jetti protects the river bank,” said Bill Miller with FEMA. “There were eight jettis here.”

With the riverbank unprotected, the flooding Platte River changed drastically and covered up 30 to 40 acres of land. The jettis that were constructed here 25 years ago have to be replaced.

“Twenty-five years ago, it was 110,000,” said Tom Mountford with the NRD. “With 25 years and the different type of damage that has happened, you could be talking a half million to a million dollars.”

As part of the process, FEMA officals will record the damage and then hand their report to other FEMA officals — not much comfort today for Wendy and her family.

“We’re just trying to figure out what our options are, and at this point, we have more questions than wo do answers,” Suttles said.

She and her family are hoping to one day drive tractors through their fields again instead of four wheelers through the sand.

Those in surrounding communities are worried about the effects of the changes the flood has caused to the lands there.

“We’re just hoping to get some answers,” Suttles said. “We lost just 30 or forty acres of land to the river. We’re just trying to figure out if we can take some of the sand and put it back into the river — can it be a cornfield again?”

The field was the main source of feed for her family’s livestock.

“We’re predominantly a cow-calf operation,” she said. “We also did some feeding and backgrounding cattle on the side. (But) this was our main cornfield our main source of feed from our livestock.”

Miller understands the scope.

“There’s no doubt that this is a major disaster,” he said. “It’s really caused a lot of grief and harm to a lot of people.

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