This winter has brought on higher then normal river flows, at least when measured against the past 7-10 years. This mixed with the cold has brought on ice that has formed a natural dam causing water to flow out of the established stream bed flooding mostly farm ground and pasture. The stretch of river just south of our Nature Center between the Alda road and Highway 281 is flatter then other stretches of the river causing it to shallow up and flow wider. This gives the ice a place to run aground causing the flood.
The ice has an important impact on the stream bed acting like an earth scraper that removes vegetation opening up the sandbars. This is important to the water-flow and the wildlife component of the river. A lot of work has been done through mechanical and chemical methods to keep the river channel free, but this really cleans her out the old fashioned way!
Hit the jump to read on...
At this point, the property damage seems limited to a few structure and duck blinds on the river along with one family who was evacuated from their home mostly because of access issues.
I decided to rent a plane and get an arial view of the area. It clearly shows how the water fans out into the surrounding fields. I was told by Milt Moravek, Projects manager at the Central Platte Natural Resource District of Grand Island, that this has happened six times in the last forty years on this stretch of the Platte. There are ways to help funnel the water through more efficiently, but those ideas take time and money.
I'll be back out in the river whenever the ice melts away and look at the stream-bed to see just what the result the ice has.