The Saratoga Sun -

By Mike Dunn 

River project needs more information streams

One resident says he wants more disclosure from town

 


Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in a series of stories about the river restoration project.

The North Platte River Restoration Project will impact everyone in Saratoga in one way or another. But perhaps the largest impact will be for those who live next to the river.

The project will increase the flood plain on the shore of the North Platte River. This will help prevent flooding, however, it means that people who live along the river will lose a lot of their shore front.

If the project goes as planned, the flood plain will increase by almost 50 feet to each side of the river.

President of Trout Unlimited and Saratoga resident Jim States said that he is torn about this project and how it will impact his two lots beside the river.

States said his opinions on the project are “mixed”.

“It was something I had to think a lot about pretty seriously. But, I guess in the end, especially with those two high water years, I realized if I want to be looking right at the river, we better not wait for it to come in the back door next time. So in a way, it’s a tradeoff.”

Saratoga resident Cindy Bloomquist has about 120 feet of property alongside the river. She says that even though the floodplain will mean that she is further away from the water, she still likes the idea for the project.

“I am feeling better after these meetings because I have seen pictures of rock (in similar projects),” Bloomquist said. “But I’ve seen what they do with widening with their other projects and how they vegetate it and it would look pretty nice. So that made me feel better about it.”

While reflecting on the floods of 2010 and 2011, States said that they were extremely lucky that his properties were not as damaged as they could have been. However, He said that waiting for another flood is not an option.

“My family has been on that property for over 60 years.” States said. “We never really worried that much about the river because we thought we were protected from current: we might get flooded but we won’t get washed away. But when we got to the second flood … when they put those big berms down the center of city streets, my concern was that we suddenly became a part of the river. And if we gotten a warm rain that spring, we would have been likely washed away.”

“It was realizing that we could be in that situation, that made me realize that maybe being able to look down on the river had a negative aspect to it,” States added.

The biggest issue with the project is insuring that everyone who lives on the river will be notified and accepting of the project.

“I think you have to be very careful about everybody’s yard,” Bloomquist said.

Gary Widemshek owns several hundred feet of property along the North Platte River in Saratoga. He was on his way to Wisconsin during the river restoration project meeting in December, and said he was disappointed that he was not better informed of the meeting.

“I don’t think that the timing (of the meeting) was as open and as forthcoming as they could have been about it,” Widemshek said.

Representation from the town of Saratoga said that they would compile a list of people who live on the river in order for them to sign off on the project. However, Widemshek said that he has yet to be contacted concerning this matter, and the town needs to be more proactive about keeping people informed.

“The town is driving the bus on this project, and ultimately it relies on [Mayor] John Zeiger,” Widemshek said.

Either way, Saratoga residents agree that something needs to be done in order to protect their homes.

“We can’t prevent flooding, but we can stabilize the river to prevent total catastrophe and we can even do it in ways to make the river more of an icon for the city than it is. I think there are a wide range of solutions that could be good. We only have to come up with one,” States said.

 

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