Peru farmers eager to comply with government regulations

PERU – The farmers who make up the board for Peru Drainage District No. 6 say they will work with the Biden Administration to expedite restoration of the Missouri River levee that had once protected 7,000 acres.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent over $100 million to repair 54 levee systems following flooding in 2019, but Peru’s levee R562 was not eligible for corps assistance because it had fallen into inactive status.

The levee had been built in 1954 and had never been breached, so rather than spending the $2,000 on a System Wide Improvement Framework plan that the government required, the board used its resources for levee improvements.

The flood of 2019 left a hole in the levee and the board -- comprised of just a few landowners -- faced an impossible $60 million repair bill.

On Thursday, drainage district directors said they are working to provide documentation, which the the government requires for FEMA payments,  that shows they had an equal opportunity policy when they contracted with Mount Farm Drainage. The board’s 2020-21 disbursements show about $350,000 to the company for flood repairs.

Director Brett Adams told the board he has explained to the government that rural communities have limited options in hiring contractors and said Mount Farm Drainage was able to accommodate the agriculture season. He told the other directors that the government accepted his explanation, but wants to see documentation regarding the policy.

U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith had worked to get language in the 2021 Water Resources Act to allow federal funds to be used to repair the Peru levee, but the government is still working on pertinent regulations.

Meanwhile, the farm land in the drainage district is susceptible to flooding. With protection of the 1954 levee, a flood level above 18 feet at Nebraska City would mean some light flooding would start to occur. Now, a level of 15 feet at Nebraska City could wash out crops in the Peru bottoms.

Adams said a single four to five-inch rain event upstream in the Omaha area could result in flooding.

An election was recently held at the Nemaha County Courthouse for the drainage district and the dike district, but attorney Kelly Werts told directors that no one voted.

The directors on Thursday re-appointed Tom Snodgrass and Marvin Wiles to the expired terms.