OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle signed an emergency declaration Wednesday as the city contends with the swollen Missouri River but he and others said they expect to escape major flooding.
“We're on top of this,” said Suttle, noting the declaration will help the city get state and federal aid should it be needed.
Officials in Nebraska and Iowa have been monitoring the river, which is expected to crest near Omaha at record levels between 34 and 36 feet in late June after more water is released from reservoirs in North Dakota and South Dakota.
The river serves as the city's eastern border. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers measured the river at about 30 feet Wednesday in Omaha. Flood stage is 29 feet.
Col. Robert Ruch with the Army Corps of Engineers said Omaha has a 42-foot levee, and he's confident it will protect the city.
“We have a lot of room to work with here,” he said.
Ruch said he has no concerns about its structural integrity, and city workers have been inspecting it every day to make sure it's in good condition.
Suttle said the city will have flood pumps on standby should there be heavy rains that leave water trapped on the dry side of the levy. He declined to give a worst-case scenario for flooding, saying the city has a great flood plan.
Also Wednesday, the city activated a command center to handle flood-related issues and was preparing to activate 211 as a resource for residents with flooding questions.
Water has already spilled over the banks in several low-lying areas along the river in Nebraska and Iowa. That means more than 1,000 acres of farmland in southeast Nebraska have flooded, and water is encroaching on cities such as Fort Calhoun, Neb., and Sloan, Iowa.
The corps predicts that 2011 could be one of the wettest years on record in the Missouri River basin. Officials are predicting record river flows and large releases from upstream reservoirs because of steady spring rain and above-normal snowpack.
The corps warns that the high water level and flooding issues will likely worsen over the next month as releases from upstream reservoirs reach historic levels.
In South Dakota, the surging river is expected to jeopardize hundreds of homes and businesses in low-lying areas. The governor is making plans for possible evacuations for three cities in the southeast part of that state.
Timberly Ross can be reached at http://twitter.com/timberlysross.