Although the water has receded in many (but not all) areas of Fremont County, at their July 31 meeting the Fremont County Board of Supervisors voted to continue the current evacuation order on everything south of Highway 2 and west of Bluff Road.
Fremont County Emergency Management Director Mike Crecelius was present at that meeting and advised the water was down, but the roads just weren’t there. He suggested the supervisors look at the photo of Highway 333 the Iowa DOT had put up online that day for an example of the poor condition of the water-damaged roads in the area.
The supervisors discussed levee work being done and the need for access roads to approach and repair levees. Robbie Kromminga of the Fremont County Engineer’s Office said he is working on sorting out county road needs and costs. Some portion of those costs will likely be paid or reimbursed by FEMA disaster recovery public assistance funds, but the county has to be able to quantify expected costs.
Supervisor Randy Hickey said the levee districts have the same problem, in that they have to estimate damages and potential repair costs, and in many places levee sponsors can’t even get near the levee due to remaining water and destroyed roads.
Of particular concern to the county, too, is the north side of the Waubonsie Creek levee, as the Corps says it is not eligible for PL84-99 repair funds, and water continues to pour through to the east and south. The supervisors said an additional meeting about this breach was scheduled, and they hoped for better news.
Supervisor Terry Graham said he would like to get levee district secretary Sandy Graybill back in to update the supervisors on what damage the county started with, and what had been repaired so far. He suggested an updated map of original and repaired breaches from the Corps would be useful, too.
Crecelius pointed out that there were some weather organizations predicting a wet winter, and said with the water still here, a wet winter, and levees only repaired to the 25 year protection level so far, it could well be the county would be facing the same type of disaster next year.
Deputy Fremont County Attorney Tyler Loontjer advised the supervisors he is still working on the request for proposals (RFP) for debris removal, but it was a 47 page document full of technicalities to satisfy FEMA requirements, so it would take time. He asked them to table the matter and said he would try to have it completed and a draft sent out to the supervisors for review by August 5.
Loontjer said in Mills County they set up a debris management team, with specific points of contact for contractors, residents, etc., and asked if that was what Fremont County wanted to do, too. With all unincorporated areas except Percival, Bartlett and McPaul being a part of the debris removal contract once completed, and many areas still inaccessible, Loontjer suggested the county either set up multiple contracts for different areas (as they dried out), or make the one contract long term enough for everything to dry out and the debris removal contractor to be able to access all. Loontjer suggested a year-long contract. Loontjer also requested a list of the addresses affected from Crecelius, explaining it might help define where debris removal would need to happen. The supervisors and Loontjer agreed the contractor would have to stay in close contact with the supervisors, roads department and/or emergency management to stay informed regarding what roads were accessible and determine a schedule for debris removal.
The supervisors hoped to review the debris removal RFP and approve it at the next supervisor meeting, so a contractor could be found soon.