Platte County residents dealing with the aftermath of March's historic flooding have a chance to get some more help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA recently announced Platte County is one of the many rural communities eligible for some of the $150 million now available across the U.S. through its Community Facilities Program for rural communities impacted by natural disasters, including this year’s severe flooding.
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released a statement in response to the announcement.
“Many rural communities in Nebraska have a long way to go on the road to recovery following this year’s extreme flooding," Fischer said. "Because we fought to include Nebraska in disaster relief legislation earlier this year, our state is eligible for this Community Facilities Program and several others. I encourage our rural communities to look into this program and apply for assistance. This is another important step to advance Nebraska’s full recovery.”
The $150 million in grants available through the Community Facilities Program is intended to help rural communities continue their recovery from the devastating effects of hurricanes, fires, and other natural disasters. The grants may be used for natural disasters where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided a notice declaring a Major Disaster Declaration and assigned a FEMA disaster recovery number.
Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in eligible rural areas with populations of 20,000 or less.
Neighboring Colfax, Butler and Polk counties also made the list of eligible Nebraska communities.
Around the state:
Ricketts: Let’s Stand Up for Nebraska’s Family Farmers
Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) Director Steve Wellman issued statements following news that radical anti-agriculture groups had called for a moratorium on livestock production in Nebraska.
“Let’s be clear: The out-of-state environmental lobbying groups rallying opposition against our family farmers in Nebraska are anti-agriculture,” Ricketts said. “Left unchecked, they would destroy our way of life. This attempt to stop livestock development in Nebraska is a part of the ‘meat is murder’ movement led by radical groups who want to end livestock production around the globe. I urge Nebraskans in our local communities to rise up and protect family farms and stand with our livestock producers across our state.”
Said Wellman: “Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, and it is extremely disheartening to learn that there are groups of citizens in our own state that are working to essentially eliminate the livestock industry.
"As the director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, I strongly support all aspects of Nebraska agriculture and the farmers and ranchers that work tirelessly contributing to Nebraska’s economic well-being through livestock production. CAFO’s are well thought out and planned operations across Nebraska with plans that work to address environmental impacts, nutrient management and animal health to efficiently deliver a high quality, safe food supply.”
NDOT releases 2020 construction program
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The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) earlier this week released its 2020 Construction Program, which details transportation projects scheduled for funding over the next year and identifies those planned for construction in the following five years. With the announcement came news that the Department’s strategy for 2020 will be slightly altered due to the historic flooding of 2019.
“The Department’s 2020 Program Book looks a bit different from what communities and the construction industry are used to,” said NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis. “The program, which is essentially a statewide list of asset preservation and capital improvement projects, will be a living document, housed on our website and updated periodically.”
The 2020 Program Book will be focused on the one-year construction program and categorize both asset preservation and capital improvement projects as either in the 2020 construction program or as stand-by projects. Stand-by projects are those that the Department is not able to fully commit to for letting in 2020 but anticipates opportunity and is preparing to support moving projects forward to either letting or construction dependent on cash flow.
When factoring in an estimated $153 million in emergency expenses, the Department’s 2020 Program is a record $782 million. Notably, the 2020 list includes three capital improvement projects that have been long awaited: the Lincoln South Beltway; Fremont Southeast Beltway; and the Highway 83, Super 2 Frazier Creek North & South between North Platte and McCook.
“Nebraska is a pay-as-you-go state and NDOT has a longstanding philosophy of getting the money on the road, quickly,” said Schneweis. “This suits us well, but when faced with a $150 million plus disaster, we need a few months to cash flow recovery efforts.
We are in a good place and as federal reimbursements come through, we’ll update the construction list and return to our regularly scheduled program.”
In addition to the 2020 program the Department also published projects in its five-year planning program as well as capturing, by NDOT District, the investment in the system that was made over the spring and summer of 2019 to repair flood damage. The Districtwide Emergency Repairs line gives the estimated dollar amount required to rebuild the federal-aid transportation system.
NDOT is responsible for nearly 10,000 miles of roads and 3,500 bridges. Funding for NDOT projects comes from the State Highway Trust Fund, Build Nebraska Act, Transportation Innovation Act and federal funds. More information and a list of projects can be found at:
Enrollment drops again at UNL, NU system
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln posted its second straight year of enrollment losses Monday as it continues to descend from the peak it reached two years ago.
According to its annual census taken on the sixth day of classes, a total of 25,332 undergraduate, graduate and professional students are enrolled at UNL this year.
That’s down 1.9% from the 25,820 students recorded by UNL last year, and down 3% from the flagship public university campus’ record-breaking enrollment of 26,079 students in 2017-18.