Tiny Nebraska town’s residents mull moving uphill

Nebraska News

WINSLOW, Neb. (AP) — Residents of a tiny Nebraska community who are reeling from flooding this year are considering moving their entire town uphill.

A 1996 flood brought water inside Winslow and into basements, but it was mere puddling compared with the surge that all but overwhelmed the town in mid-March. The swollen Elkhorn River overtopped a levee, and the water damaged almost all 38 homes and 10 other buildings in the Dodge County town. No injuries were reported.

Now town leaders are proposing moving Winslow out of the flood plain, possibly to a hilltop 2 miles away — an arduous paperwork and logistical process that Zachary Klein, a village trustee and the volunteer fire chief, said could take two years. Klein said funding is available from federal, state and local sources.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that, during a July meeting to discuss the issues facing the town of about 100 people, Klein said agencies won’t be providing a bigger and better levee to protect the community.

“They will not put money in levees. You know why? Because they fail,” he said.

The residents could take a government buyout of their current property so they can move their houses or build new ones. Lots at the new town site would be chosen via a lottery process. Winslow basically would be re-created from scratch, as a sanitary improvement district that would lay roads and utilities. Excess lots would be sold for new homes, helping Dodge County’s current housing shortage and hopefully boosting Winslow’s population and tax base.

Other options include staying put and risking future flooding or taking a buyout and leaving Winslow entirely.

There is no deadline yet for reaching a consensus on moving the town, Klein said.

“That’s a pretty daunting process, trying to relocate,” said Bryan Tuma, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. “We’ll just stand by and try to work with them.”

After the July meeting, Klein said about half the residents seemed willing to relocate. A handful of families have indicated that they would like to remain and the rest are undecided or might leave Winslow for good.

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