When Sen. Deb Fischer’s aide Julie Booker was in North Platte on Monday, May 1 to meet with constituents, North Platte City Administrator Jim Hawks asked her to help.Hawks wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open an office in central Nebraska, or at least increase the staff at its office in Omaha, so they will communicate better.
The Corps has regulatory oversight of major waterways, including the Platte rivers, but it is difficult to get someone from the Corps to come to this part of the state when a waterway needs attention, Hawks said.
A check of news stories bears that out. The Corps did not come to North Platte at the request of officials who sought permission to shore up a bank after a community college student, Samson Charles, drowned when his kayak overturned in July.
Hawks said Corps officials have also been slow to respond to wetland mitigation proposals for new businesses, and did not inspect the situation when Iron Eagle Golf Course flooded, which occurred in each of the last two years.
The corps had an office in Kearney that closed in 2014.
Hawks said it has been a challenge to get a Corps official to stop in North Platte since the Kearney office closed.
Also, due to lack of response by another set of federal officials, the South River Road is still not repaired, two years after it washed out in 2015.
If the South Platte River floods again, the water would threaten to cut away the bank, and could cut an entirely new channel, engineers warn. The bank must be rebuilt according to Corps standards.
Lincoln County Commissioner Joe Hewgley recently told the Bulletin the South River Road repair remains stalled because of lack of response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, another federal agency without an office in greater Nebraska.
Hawks has served Lincoln County and North Platte since 1988, when he became the county surveyor.
In 1991, he was named the director of the county roads department.
He became the manger of the city’s municipal light and water department in 2003 and was chosen as North Platte’s city administrator in 2004.