County Roads Still Recovering from Weather Incidents
By BARB KEEGAN
Box Butte County Highway Superintendent
Three months ago, on March 21, 2019, FEMA-4420-DR was declared with Box Butte County being one of the original entities requesting Public Assistance. A number of things have been taking place, most of which have been behind the scenes since it seems we can’t put together three days in a row of sunshine without moisture. With the continued moisture, there is the potential for a second disaster to be declared. Box Butte County has taken the initial steps to advance should the declaration be announced.
Last week Box Butte County received notice that a Project Manager (PDMG) had been assigned to us, this week an Exploratory Call (what is considered the first step) with FEMA was placed and next week will be the Recovery Scoping Meeting (a face to face) with FEMA but no sites will be visited. All of this may seem delayed but, this too, is beyond our control. Once the RSM is completed another group of requirements and deadlines will be set and the process will continue, eventually we will find out if sites have met disaster qualifications.
FEMA is broken into many parts; Hazard Mitigation is one such component that has subparts Sections 406 and 404. Box Butte County will be applying for grants allowed by these sections but again there are another set of measures that must be met with the most important being cost-effectiveness, technical feasibility and compliance with all other environmental laws and regulations.
Secondary damages are one of the areas in which FEMA is undecided. The Road Department has been making repairs but it seems some days we damage more roads trying to get rock delivered than it is worth, these are considered secondary damages. Several individuals, county-wide, notify us of rainfall amounts and locations which is extremely helpful when trying to avoid this type of damage. Research has shown that a 500-year flood decreases the lifespan of a bridge by 50 to 75%, can you imagine how high the percentage is on aggregate surfaced or even asphaltic roads? Box Butte County does not have a good quality rock to start with so our damages have gone even higher as the local rock has melted away or been driven into the subgrade. Two local pits have current contracts out for crushing; one vendor is not yet working in Box Butte County as they are in a neighboring county trying to meet their needs and the other vendor is producing as much aggregate as possible but struggles with weather events just as we do.
In an effort to keep Road Department employees focused on maintenance and minor repairs, two outside contracts were awarded for the repair of roads. One proposal has been completed and the second proposal has had the completion delayed due to weather. It is anticipated that more projects similar to those already awarded will be let.
The first day of summer is upon us, the water that had receded a bit is starting to rise again in certain areas of the county and more precipitation and severe weather is being called for today. Tomorrow is another day and the long-term forecast is looking like summer may actually arrive soon. Until then we will continue to make repairs and appreciate the assistance local producers have provided.