Connecting the Niobrara community

Eye on KELOLAND

NIOBRARA, N.E. (KELO) – It’s a flood that’s had not only a devastating effect on the Niobrara, Nebraska community, but also a lasting one. Nearly 4 months after water rushed into the southeastern KELOLAND town, the community is still feeling the effects.

Back in April KELOLAND News showed you how broken bridges were separating the town. What used to be a 15 minute drive home, become more than an hour for some. And some business owners have had to rebuild.

“I’ve lost four buildings, a big Quonset, and all my machinery, and the hay that was in the buildings,” lives on ranch/owns hay business, Garry Nielsen said.

Now, work is being done to repair the Niobrara River Bridge and put in a temporary one where the Mormon Canal Bridge once stood. It’s a sight that people in Niobrara are welcoming. One after another trucks make their way through town.

After months of not having any access to cross the river, this is now a sign that that dream will soon be a reality.

“You have people wanting that bridge open, everyday there’s people looking and waiting, taking pictures and checking it out and these guys are doing their hardest to get it open because they know what we’re struggling with and what it’s like,” rancher Jake Warembourg said.

Jake Warmbourg has a ranch about 4 miles west of Niobrara. But he has to drive more than 60 miles to get there.

“I usually try to get down there once a week, if I’m haying maybe it’s twice, go out and check cows, put mineral out, check bulls, if I do have something going wrong I try to get it rounded up,” Warembourg said. {12:32:31} “We haven’t been making the journey as much because of the wear and tear on our vehicles and ourselves.”

Back in March flooding knocked out the Mormon Canal Bridge, moving it about 750 feet down the river. Floodwaters littered with chunks of ice also damaged part of the Niobrara River bridge.

Now crews have started making repairs.

“We have Hawkins Construction under contract to repair the Niobrara bridge, they’ve already began with the removal of the west end of the bridge, as part of that bridge repair we’ll do some deck repair,” district 3 engineer for Nebraska Department of Transportation, Kevin Domogalla said.

But that’s not all.

“The Mormon canal, the bridge was completely destroyed, right now we’re in the process of building a temporary bridge to be able to open up traffic about the middle of august, once we get traffic opened up, we will begin work on the permanent bridge,” Domogalla said.

Construction crews moved in at the beginning of June to start work. Nebraska Department of Transportation District 3 engineer, Kevin Domogalla says the area should be back open by the middle of August.

“The project has been coming along very well, the contractor has supplied adequate staff, we’re coming along better than expected,” Domogalla said.

Which is good news for people like Warembourg.

“I like to see the guys working down there, they’re ahead of schedule from what I’ve heard, it really looks like they’re working their hardest,” Warembourg said.

Progress that locals have been waiting for… for months.

“The sooner and to have that access and that capability to get across that much quicker, just having that ease of mind knowing that your stock is all right, and your ground is all right,” Warembourg said.

Keloland News also reached out to Hawkins Construction about the project, the chief operating officer, Chris Hawkins, says if weather cooperates, there will be single lane traffic open by August 15th. Once that happens, crews will begin building the new permanent Mormon Canal Bridge and finish up repairs on the Niobara River Bridge.

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