Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.
[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.
Today we are looking at the Lincoln on the Move program. Then we will be learning more about the recently updated Flood and Water Quality Protection guidelines. To end the day we will be going over the highlights of Governor Ricketts’s recent conference which highlighted efforts to improve health outcomes for underserved communities in Nebraska and, finally, we will have this week’s portion of the 2022 Ignite Lincoln.
But, first, we have some relatively breaking news.
Going internationally, Governor Ricketts announced the conclusion of his recent trade mission to Japan.
Delegates on the mission included representatives from Nebraska’s agricultural businesses, state commodity organizations, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Department of Agriculture (NDA), and the Department of Economic Development (DED).
On Tuesday, the trade delegation met with the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to discuss opportunities for expanding Nebraska’s beef and pork exports to Japan. Japan is Nebraska’s largest market for pork and 2nd largest for beef, the latter of which has seen annual sales rise by $215 million, an 88% increase, since 2015.
Throughout the week, the ag delegation met with various trade organizations, business partners, and government officials to discuss opportunities for increasing Nebraska’s ag exports to Japan.
Many of the representatives in the delegation are also farmers and ranchers, which allowed Japanese companies to hear directly from Nebraskans who supply their beef, pork, wheat, and corn to Japan through Nebraska’s exporters. This included Ivan Rush, Director at the Nebraska Beef Council; Shana Beattie, Past President of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association; Mark Knobel, Chairman of the Nebraska Wheat Board; and Mark McHargue, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Conversations also highlighted Nebraska’s advancements in ethanol— like carbon sequestration and the adoption of higher ethanol blends—to leaders in Tokyo.
Governor Rickets and industry experts, including Jan tenBensel, Chairman of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, also spoke with Japanese government officials about the solutions Nebraska ethanol offers as Japan seeks to provide cheaper, cleaner fuel for vehicle and air travel. This included meetings with leaders at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.
When looking at Nebraska broadly, Nebraska Game and Parks has announced that fire officials will begin burning slash piles all across the state starting immediately as weather allows over the winter months.
Nebraska Game and Parks will burn slash piles containing trees and shrubs removed from grasslands and forests, along with other debris piles, on both wildlife management areas and state park areas. The goal is to reduce fuel loads while conditions are safer for burning.
In the Pine Ridge area, Nebraska Game and Parks is partnering with the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands to reduce fuel loads in forested areas.
When burns are occurring, smoke likely will be visible from nearby communities and other nearby roads and properties.
The burn piles will be checked at least daily until they are completely extinguished.
Thinning and reducing hazardous fuel accumulation and build-up on the ground is an important tool in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Many of these slash piles are from mechanical thinning completed in grassland and forested areas throughout the state and some residue from previous fires.
For more information contact the Nebraska Game and Parks Wildlife Office at 402 – 471 – 5431, and for information on the Pine Ridge fires, contact the Pine Ridge Ranger District at 308 – 432 – 0300 or the Game and Parks Commission Pine Ridge Field Office at 308 -665 – 2924.
Nebraska law enforcement has been partnering with the Nebraska Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office (HSO) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind the public of the dangers of impaired driving. As part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, law enforcement will be working overtime to remove drunk and impaired drivers off the roads from December 16 to January 1, 2023.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11,654 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020 that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2016 to 2020, and one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 45 minutes in 2020. This is why Nebraska Law Enforcement agencies are working together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal but dangerous.
Local law enforcement would like to remind the public that there are three steps to staying safe this holiday season and preventing impaired driving:
First, plan ahead. If you will be drinking, do not plan on driving. Designate a sober driver for the evening or arrange for alternative transportation in advance.
Second; if you are impaired, do not drive and find another way home. Use a taxi, ride share service or call a friend or family member.
And, third, be responsible. If someone you know has been drinking, do not let them get behind the wheel. If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement.
Turning our focus on the Lincoln area, Visit Lincoln – a division of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce which serves as the lead tourism agency representing and promoting Lincoln and Lancaster County – announced the unveiling of a new website for Lincoln’s attractions and tourism ventures.
The new lincoln.org is now live with several new upgraded features, including a streamlined hub of information that is easier to find for visitors when they are looking to find out what’s happening in Lincoln. New photos and a modern design that highlights Lincoln’s restaurants, hotels, and attractions, planning options for group tours, sporting events, and more are featured brightly with additional information on an easy-to-find and dynamic website.
When sharing the news, Jeff Maul – the executive director – vice president of Visit Lincoln – commented on the achievement:
“The new lincoln.org serves as a window into all of the great things going on in our community, the excitement that surrounds our dynamic tourism skyline, and the website vividly shows what amazing opportunities await visitors and Lincolnites alike,” said Jeff Maul, executive director- vice president of Visit Lincoln.
The new website includes more information, photos, and video accompanying a Lincoln Visitors Guide, favorite spots from a local perspective, and plenty of options for visitors planning their time in the community.
The Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau is also modernizing in symphony with the new website, as the organization will now be known as Visit Lincoln, complete with a new logo and branding.
Lincoln Public Schools announced that enrollment for Standing Bear High School is now accepting High School Choice Forms for any students currently in grades 8-11 who are interested in attending Lincoln’s newest high school next fall. Lincoln Public Schools allows every high school student the opportunity to choose which high school they want to attend as they enter their freshman year. Because Standing Bear High School opens next fall, every student entering grades 9-12 in the Fall of 2023 will have an opportunity to attend the new high school.
If a student wants to attend Standing Bear High School, they will need to fill out the High School Choice Form as soon as possible and return it to their school counselor. Students who submit the form after January 31, 2023, may be denied a transfer. Turning in the form early allows administrators to start planning for classes and staffing.
Students and families are invited to learn about Lincoln’s newest high school and focus program during the informational night on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m., at Moore Middle School. Staff will be on hand to answer any questions families may have about classes, activities, and the focus program.
There will be a Standing Bear Booster Club informational meeting for any family who may have a student attending Standing Bear High School. This meeting will lay the groundwork for organizing the Booster Club and getting the support organization started. The meeting will be held at Moore Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 6 p.m.
If a student in grades 10–12 is interested in participating in athletics and activities, they will also need to notify the Standing Bear Athletic Director by May 1, 2023, of their intent to transfer. Failure to contact the Standing Bear AD by the deadline may jeopardize a student’s eligibility to participate in varsity activities during the 2022-23 school year.
Varsity offerings in athletics and activities will be determined after staff have gathered information on student interest and enrollment. It is important that high school students indicate their interest in Standing Bear High School prior to the January 31 deadline to help make this determination sooner.
Standing Bear High School in collaboration with Lincoln Public Schools has made the decision to open the 2023-2024 athletic season without a varsity football team. There will still be a full schedule for junior varsity, reserve, and freshmen teams in football. The early announcement comes so families can make their decision about switching schools prior to the January 31 decision deadline.
More information about all of the LPS high school information nights, along with the High School Choice Form can be found on the website: https://home.lps.org/prepare.
And, lastly, a message from the Lincoln Police Department. Local law enforcement has seen a 200% increase in package theft when compared to the same time last year. Since the beginning of December, there have been 21 reports of package theft with a total loss of $4222.30 LPD would like to remind everyone to be aware these thefts are occurring and take steps to help prevent your delivery package from being stolen.
And that wraps up out up our relatively breaking news for today!
Moving onward, I want to touch on something else before we get into our first segment.
2022 is coming to a close. This means that we will start airing our 4-part Media Literacy Series in January. So I want to lay out the schedule for that series. On January 7, 2023, we will be discussing the current role of journalism in our society and the ethical guidelines of newsrooms. The week after – on January 14, 2023 – we will be hosting an episode looking at misinformation v. disinformation. Then our January 21, 2023, show will dig in deep on the subject of bias in journalism. And that last show, on January 28, 2023, will look at basic newsroom fundamentals like content choice, source choices, and conflicts of interest.
And, since I’m laying out this schedule for you, I think now is a good time for a reminder.
We have had our Perceptions of the News survey up for a little over two months. That survey will be staying open until January 3, 2023. That is the official cut-off day. So, I’m going to ask that if you haven’t already done so, please take our survey. The more data we have and the more questions we collect means our panelists will have so much more to talk about. So, please… You can head over to our website at kzum.org. It is currently pinned to our homepage on the right-hand side. There is both a QR code and link in that pinned post. I will also be including a link in today’s transcript, which can be found under the KZUM News archives. Or you can head to our social media pages. We’re on Instagram and Facebook. We have active posts with the QR code and link in our feeds. So those are some of the different ways you can access the survey.
And, of course, I want to thank everyone who has already participated. We appreciate you sharing your experiences and thoughts with us. And we look forward to answering your questions in January.
With that reminder out of the way, we can jump into our first segment of the day. We are learning more about the Lincoln on the Move program, which invested $42 million in street improvement and new projects. This update follows the release of the third Lincoln on the Move annual report. So let’s tune in and learn more.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: All right. Good morning and thank you all for being here for this update on the progress of our Lincoln on the Move Initiative to improve our streets. Joining me today is our Lincoln Transportation Utilities Director, Liz Elliot, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Specialist, Todd Wilton, and co-chair of our advisory Committee on Transportation – or ACT for short – Amy Eidenmiller. And we’re here today because investing in streets across our city and within our neighborhoods is one of our communities and my administration’s top priorities. Streets are vital to growing economic opportunity, enhancing public safety, and supporting our high quality of life. In Lincoln, now, our residents affirm the value that we place on our streets.
Back in 2019, when voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax to fund additional streets. Over the course of a six-year period, today, these investments – which include enhancements to existing streets as well as new growth projects – they comprise our Lincoln on the Move program, a program that is literally helping our residents and our community move forward in a way that enhances public safety and grows our economy. And we’re here today to share the latest progress we’ve made together through the Lincoln on the Move Initiative.
And that progress is illustrated in the “2022 Lincoln on the Move Annual Report” that we’re releasing today. This annual report showcases additional street investments of nearly $17 million that enabled 15 street projects across all quadrants of our city. And that work, completed this past year, builds on the success of progress made by the Lincoln on the Move Initiative.
Since it began in 2019 and through the first three years, Lincoln on the Move has invested $42 million into our streets. And what this means is that we have been able to invest over 20% more into our street network in each of the past three years. In concrete terms, that means that we’ve achieved 40 additional street projects – totaling nearly 114 lane miles – that have now been built across our community thanks to Lincoln on the Move. And since our Lincoln on the Move Initiative is now halfway through its six-year span, it benefits a halftime show to display the program’s most recent progress and remind residents of how it benefits our community.
So we’re gonna take a look here in Northeast Lincoln. Our street projects are making lasting improvements to neighborhoods. This project enhanced streets around the Kahoa Elementary area.
And, in addition to improving existing streets, Lincoln on the Move invests in growth projects to create new non-residential streets that promote private sector investment. And one example completed this year is along West Holdredge Street from Northwest 48th to Chitwood Lane. And this project paved a mile of New Street and added a new roundabout. This growth project will help serve future residential development to its north and south. Lincoln on the Move also improved Randolph Street from 40th to 56th. This important thoroughfare connects neighbors in the Woods Park Witherbee and East Ridge neighborhoods. Upgrades included a mill and overlay of the existing road surface. And in the neighborhood near Lincoln High School, near the core of our city, Lincoln on the Move improved several streets through a millin overlay of the existing surface.
So, as you can see, when it comes to the quality of our streets, Lincoln is ahead of the pack. We recently ranked as the sixth-best city to drive in out of a hundred cities, bolstering our local economy, public safety, and our neighborhoods. One of the biggest reasons for this ranking and for our high-quality streets is the work of our Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Department.
And I’d now like to invite up LTU Director, Liz Elliott, to share more details about Lincoln on the Move. Liz?
Liz Elliott, Director of the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: Thank you, mayor.
The year 2022 signifies the third of six years. Lincoln on the Move has been in motion and, as we look back on where we were three years ago to where we are today, we see accelerated progress and major investments into Lincoln’s infrastructure in our neighborhoods, on our arterial streets, and in growth areas of Lincoln.
The 15 street projects this year showed dozens of blocks of new and improved streets and more than 42 miles of progress. Our transportation team is thrilled to continue to hit the gas pedal as we make significant strides to improve and grow streets through this program. The third Lincoln on the Move Annual Report shows progress on maps and in interactive videos, as well as photographs.
Here’s a look at this year’s report. Projects can be seen in all quadrants of the city. Year three results show 12 existing street projects for our neighborhoods and main streets, and three growth projects to help meet development needs. The mayor mentioned some of these projects. A few more highlights include the near South neighborhood and an arterial project on North 14th Street from Adams to Superior Streets.
As we enter year four, some of the projects to look forward to include South 27th Street from Coronado to Old Cheney Road, North 48th Street from Layton to Superior, and 84th Street from Sandalwood to Elizabeth Drive.
More street projects are planned for years five and six with the guidance of the ACT, a public committee appointed by the mayor to assist on how to best use the Lincoln on the Move street funds. Without this funding source, these streets would need to wait longer to see improvements and growth expansion.
The city began receiving this revenue from the quarter cents sales tax December 2019. The first construction project began in the spring of 2020, and we’ve been producing additional street projects at full speed ever since. In year one of the program, the city invested more than $10 million into Lincoln. Year two, the program invested more than $15 million. The funding in those two years helped improve arterial streets like South 9th Street, South 48th Street, and neighborhoods like Highlands Neighborhood, Havelock Neighborhood, and Zeman Elementary School neighborhood, along with many more. These existing street projects were a part of the 73.5% of the revenue dedicated to existing street improvements. 25% of this funding also goes to new street construction and growth areas. And 1.5% go to the LTU and the Railroad Transportation Safety District, or the RTSD, to enhance North 33rd and Cornhusker Highway Railroad intersections.
On that project, environmental work continued in year three, along with refinement of the preliminary preferred alternative continuation of advancing the environmental document through a series of local, state, and federal reviews, as well as holding a public hearing will be the focus of this project in the coming year.
The total number of projects for the Lincoln on the Move six-year program will depend on a combination of material prices and revenue this city receives over this six-year timeframe. For a full look at a variety of the Lincoln on the Move Transportation and Utilities projects, you can go to lincoln.ne.gov/projects. On the project website, the community can see what the project is, where it’s located, its funding sources, timeline for completion, and city contacts.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you so much, Liz.
Together, with our business community, we are keenly aware of the value of our street network. And streets are the arteries through which our Lincoln economy pulses.
Here to talk more about the intersection between business and transportation is Todd Wiltgen with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.
Todd Wiltgen, Public Policy Specialist with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce: Thank you, mayor.
Making investments in our communities infrastructure not only enables trade and encourages economic growth, it connects more workers to their jobs and helps revitalize many of our neighborhoods throughout our community, spurring economic development.
The private-public partnerships in Lincoln are one of the key ingredients that make Lincoln a top location for new businesses to locate and existing businesses to expand as a proud member of the advisory committee on Transportation. We are working with the city to do just this. The street projects that we examine and vote on make a significant contribution to Lincoln’s long-term success. We have seen so many… we have seen so much progress and economic resiliency through the last three years Lincoln on the Move has been in motion.
We can’t wait to see what the next three years of the program will have in store for our community. Thank you, mayor.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you, Todd.
The decision on which streets to complete is led by LTU with the guidance and oversight of the Advisory Committee on Transportation, the ACT, as Todd just mentioned. And that ACT committee is a 14-member all-volunteer citizen body that have dedicated significant time and energy to provide an extra layer of assurance and over. We’re really grateful for the service that they’re performing for our community. And one of the co-chairs of ACT is Amy Eidenmiller, who also is an avid StarTran public transit user. And at this time, I’d like to invite up Amy, who will tell us more about her experience using Lincoln streets and how the ACT works to provide improvements in our neighborhoods.
Amy Eidenmiller, Co-Chair of the Advisory Committee on Transportation: Thank you, mayor.
As the mayor mentioned, I am on the Advisory Committee for Transportation. I’m also an avid public transit user and have a different feel for the improvements of our streets. As I ride through the city, I can definitely tell streets that are in desperate need of repair as well as those that have been repaired. It’s a much smoother ride when we do the streets that the ACT has tended to. Also, as a pedestrian, it’s a little bit scary out there sometimes when you don’t have a vehicle to protect you. For example, crossing 11th Street at Lincoln Mall, I have to be extra cautious and careful to avoid potholes and cracked streets.
I am very pleased to announce that the 11th Street corridor from South to K Street is one of the projects on our agenda for next year, and I’m very, very pleased and proud to say the Lincoln on the Move funds are improving the quality of life as well as the safety of for all Lincoln citizens and visitors.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you so much for your service, Amy, and for being here today. And, again, I’d like to thank our community for supporting this program and investing in our streets. Lincoln on the Move reflects our shared belief that a safe and reliable network of streets is critical to a thriving community. And, looking ahead, we anticipate potentially being able to invest an additional $47 million into our streets in the programs’ next three years.
And while we’re excited about Lincoln on the Move’s future today, we do invite residents to reflect on our progress over the past year. It’s all available on our interactive Lincoln on the Move 2022 Annual Report at lincoln.ne.gov/streets. And at this time, we’d be happy to take any questions from the media who are here with us or available on Zoom.
Unknown Reporter: Of that $42 million, that’s out of how much total? Like how many street projects has the city done in those three years?
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: In three years? How many street projects?
Unknown Reporter: Three years. Whichever this year is.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: I believe we mentioned 15, but don’t… here we go.
Unknown Reporter: So in addition to Lincoln on the Move, you know? Oh, like what part of the total [unintelligible]?
Liz Elliott, Director of the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: I’m gonna have… go ahead.
Sorry about that. I’m gonna have to double-check the exact numbers cause I don’t wanna give you the wrong information. So what we can do is Erica can get back to you with the total package for the year.
Unknown Reporter: I wonder what percentage [of] street projects did this comprise in this one?
Liz Elliott, Director of the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: Yes, we can get those to you and have that available later. So thank you. Sorry about that.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: I know it was… I mean, when we were reviewing the numbers, we said that it’s over 20% each year we’ve had Lincoln on the Move. We’ve been able to do over 20% more. So some years it’s been 21%. Some years it’s been 25.6%. You know, we’re still calculating, but we’ve been able to do a significant percentage of street investment that we could not have done if voters had not approved Lincoln on the Move.
Any other questions?
Okay. Well again, all that information in the annual report that we’re releasing today is at lincoln.ne.gov/streets.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: That was Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and Lincoln transportation representatives laying out the changes to our street improvement plans and new street projects in the Lincoln on the Move update.
Before we head out to break, I’m going to remind you to take our Perceptions of the News survey once again. We are getting ready to air our Media Literacy Series in January and we are hoping to collect some more data on public perceptions of bias, misinformation, and journalism fundamentals. Keep in mind that the survey also has a place for questions. So if you have a question about journalism that you’ve been holding to, we would love to hear it. Please share it so that our panelists can answer you on air. As I mentioned earlier, you can head over to our website at kzum.org. It is currently pinned to our homepage on the right-hand side. There is both a QR code and link in that pinned post. I will also be including a link in today’s transcript, which can be found under the KZUM News archives. Or you can head to our social media pages. We’re on Instagram and Facebook. We have active posts with the QR code and link in our feeds. So those are some of the different ways you can access the survey.
I’ll give you a moment to check out while we head to break. Then afterward, we are learning more about the city of Lincoln’s Flood and Water Quality Protection updates. So don’t change the dial quite yet.
[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]
Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome back to today’s episode of KZUM News.
Before the break, we did our relatively breaking news and learned more about the updates to the Lincoln on the Move program. I also mentioned that we would have a third segment today looking at Governor Rickett’s recent conference which highlighted efforts to improve health outcomes for underserved communities in Nebraska. Unfortunately, I think I misjudged how long an hour is. So we will not be covering that today.
Instead, we are learning more about the recent updates to the Lincoln Flood and Water Quality Protection standards. Let’s give it a listen so we know what to expect the next time Nebraska weather decides to bless us with excessive rainfall.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us for this news conference.
Public safety is our community’s and my administration’s top priority, and we act on this priority in multiple ways. Some of the ways that we advance public safety, like the brand-new firefighting equipment we recently received, are highly visible. We also act on this priority in less visible ways that make our homes, families, and businesses even safer. One of those ways is to make sure that our community is prepared for severe weather events like droughts or floods.
Today we are ready to prepare our community for what the science and data on flood risk in Lincoln has made clear and compelling that this is a public safety issue. And the way we build and grow our community is an important part of public safety. This is especially true of development within areas prone to flooding.
The floodplain maps that our city currently uses to plan and build vital infrastructure were created using rainfall data from 1960. Over 60 years ago. For the sake of comparison, imagine a farm family using 60-year-old weather data to make a crop planting decisions.
We don’t have to imagine what flood risk can look like in our community. Many of us remember the intense storm in May of 2015 that dumped seven inches of rain in Lincoln. And this storm resulted in Salt Creek reaching its highest level in over 100 years, prompting voluntary evacuations of the neighborhoods along Salt Creek and causing millions of dollars in damages.
The good news is we have the updated rainfall data for Lincoln on which to base sound decisions going forward. The bad news is that we know that our existing floodplain maps are too low and do not account for how those updated rainfall patterns will magnify future flooding. As a result, our residents and businesses currently in the floodplain – as well as those seeking to develop within it – face increased risk of flooding.
Now, in response, we have engaged our partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and started the process to update our floodplain map based on the most current rainfall data. However, we know that this remapping effort is likely to take five to eight years to complete. We need to take action in the interim to update the flood protections that will help keep homes and businesses and, ultimately, people safe. The protections being updated come out of an extensive analysis performed over the last three years to determine the need and create recommendations. That technical work has been supported by stakeholder groups from across the community, engineers, environmentalists, business owners, neighborhood representatives, and more. In addition, we held four community workshops over the past summer to refine the flood protections to ensure that they addressed safety in a comprehensive and efficient way, and were responsive to the feedback we heard from the community. Now I am bringing forward these important updates to our city’s flood and water quality protection manual.
These updates will help keep our residents safe and dry and help keep their properties literally and figuratively above water. It’s important to emphasize a few things about these updates.
First, the vast majority of neighborhoods in Lincoln are not located within the floodplain and are unaffected. For those seeking to build within the floodplain or make significant changes to their existing property, FEMA studies show that the associated incremental construction cost of building to a safer standard is quickly paid back by lower flood insurance.
Second, these flood protection updates are based on a proactive approach built on years of public input and scientific study. In fact, the need for the updates that we are bringing forward was established by the Salt Creek Floodplain Resiliency Study, which began back in 2019. A diverse group of stakeholders then reviewed these flood protections and many others at workshops held over the last few.
Third, we are committed to continuing to work with our builder and developer communities to increase the supply of housing at every price point. However, building unsafely is not an affordable affordability strategy. Let me repeat this important point. Building unsafely is not an affordability.
Instead, our city employs a number of financing tools, incentives, and strategies to increase the supply of both affordable and market-rate housing, and we have the resources and the policies to ensure both safety and affordability. By taking action now, we will help ensure affordable housing is built safely. We also will help our community members in the floodplain protect themselves, their families, and their businesses from the increased risk of floods. That data and our own experience has made clear. And with that, I’d like to invite up Donna Garden, our Assistant Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, to share more details about these efforts.
Donna Garden, Assistant Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: Thank you, mayor.
Over the last 30 years, flood reduction and prevention has been essential to the safety of the community, of the city. And, as a partnership with [the] Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, we have taken a proactive approach to protect new and existing development from flooding, erosion, and water quality hazards. This has come in several forms as we collect new weather data and community input that helps guide our flood management decisions through the years, including our efforts to update the flood and water quality protection manual.
Lincoln Transportation Utilities prioritizes public input and engagement. Our team understands the community’s voice is crucial in order to move forward with a variety of programs and projects as we work to keep our current and future neighbors safe, and Lincoln’s essential services in full operation. Our team has offered several opportunities for the public input. After holding two stakeholder meetings hosted by [the] Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the city took a 10-month pause to review and evaluate data and feedback collected.
After this review period, we worked to gather additional public input and held four more public workshops where we reviewed the community’s feedback, data, and possible solutions, including in the now-recommended changes. Many of the updates you see today are based on important data collected in the Salt Creek Floodplain Resiliency Study.
The city’s watershed management division conducted the study, excuse me, from 2019 to 2021… and the support of the stakeholder committee and technical experts. The primary focus was to illuminate how floodplain management measures can be strengthened and further reduce flooding impacts to existing infrastructure, local businesses, residences, and future developments, and enhance floodplain resiliency in Salt Creek.
The study also evaluated the impacts of utilizing updated rainfall and precipitation data studies. Study results show increase in flows in Salt Creek and all tributaries of Salt Creek that are 15% higher than the flows used in our current floodplain maps. Not only are the total rainfall and creek flows increased, the National Weather Service Office of Water Prediction reports rainfalls that will be more intense than what Lincoln has experienced in the past. Increased severity of storms and increased flows indicate that the entire Salt Creek watershed, including its sub-basins, are at higher risk of flooding near current, new, and renovated development in or near the floodplain.
As the mayor mentioned, Lincoln’s existing floodplain maps elevations that utilize rainfall and precipitation data are from 1961 and are outdated. Lincoln’s floodplain maps are too low by approximately one foot based on the latest approved rainfall data from FEMA. Most homes and businesses in Lincoln are already located well above the floodplain elevation for these areas of Lincoln. The flood and water quality protection manual will not affect them directly. But for those in and near the floodplain, these updates are for you.
This means, beginning in 2023, new construction within the floodplain, major renovations of 50% or more of the value of the structure within the floodplain, and construction immediately adjacent with low elevations need to be built two feet higher than the current floodplain. Not just one foot as the requirement stands today.
Our proactive efforts to update building and development standards will pay off in flood prevention and flood insurance savings for the entire community. Raising elevation of the ground will protect property owners from the risk of flooding that exists now, and the potential being mapped into the floodplain in the future. In fact, according to the Natural Hazard Mitigation 2018 report, on average, $1 spent on hazard mitigation provides approximately four to $11 in future benefits. These flood and water quality protection manual changes provide additional security and future viability for residents and business owners who are investing in these properties.
This manual offers multiple flood prevention solutions that will protect future development, the environment, and water quality around us. It assures that all infrastructure for drainage – and includes pipes, culverts, and detention ponds – are sized based on the updated rainfall amounts. It clarifies minimum stream corridors where water runs on streets and assists with erosion and sediment.
Although not part of the changes being made to the flood and water quality protection manual, our watershed management team has received a grant to begin work with FEMA to update Lincoln’s Floodplain Maps [over] the next several years. This non-structural effort is just as important as our structural flood prevention projects, like Antelope Valley Project near 21st and P [street] that removed a thousand homes and businesses from the floodplain and saved millions of dollars in additional flood insurance costs for residents. Or our efforts elsewhere in the city, like Near Dead Man’s Run in University Place neighborhood that will remove over 400 homes and businesses from the floodplain.
We continue to investigate the cost and benefits of structural solutions such as reservoirs and offsite water storage that will provide similar projects. These solutions will protect Lincoln’s families, homes, and businesses by keeping them safe and dry at a cost that is less than a percent of the investment.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you so much, Donna. And thank you to our team at LTU.
I mean. This is an announcement today but this is your ongoing work day after day, month after month, year after year. So thank you for that enduring effort.
Donna Garden, Assistant Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: Thank you, ma’am.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: And now I’d like to introduce Foster Collins, who has served on many community committees that worked on flooding and floodplain issues over the last 20 years. Foster, welcome.
Foster Collins, Community Representative: Thank you, mayor.
My name is Foster Collins. I’m a longtime resident of Lincoln. I retired from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after a career there of almost 40 years. I’ve been a supporter of Lincoln Parks and Rec, a longtime member of the Sierra Club WCA, Ottoman Society, and Friends of Wilderness Park.
Lincoln has a long history of working together to develop smart community protections. In 2004, I served on the floodplain management task force along with many other stakeholders, developers, environmentalists, neighborhood representatives, business owners, and many more. That process involved discussions on how to update flood protections and standards in a way that protects the community and still allows our continued growth and economic prosperity.
I think it’s obvious that implementing the community flood protections in 2000 certainly did not impede Lincoln’s growth or our quality of life. To the contrary, they guided Lincoln’s growth in safe and successful ways.
In the meantime, that planning to prevent flooding has encountered a new challenge; rainfall made much more intense by climate change. We already know that our current regulations are inadequate to keep people and property safe in areas where they will be at risk from the ensuing increased flood levels. Our FEMA flood… federal flood maps are outdated and don’t consider these intense rainfall events that we all have been seeing. It will be some time, five to eight years we’re told, before we have new and more realistic maps.
While there are those who will argue for delay and more studies, we already know that flood levels are rising, the floodplain is expanding, and some of our citizens are at risk and may not even be aware.
So, while the proposal in front of us today will move Lincoln forward and should be adopted, we should adopt it with the knowledge that the climate and our own city’s growth are in a dynamic relationship and there will still be important work to be done in the future.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you so much, Foster. Thank you for your service to our community. We really appreciate and believe and know that Lincoln benefits… we benefit as a community because people like Foster step up and get involved.
And at this point I would like to invite Dan Marvin, our Director of Urban Development, to come forward and speak about how the city provides incentives to help support high-quality, affordable housing and how we partner with developers to help close funding gaps they may face.
Dan Marvin, Director of Urban Development: Again, thank you.
We have worked with builders and developers on affordable housing projects, including projects within the floodplain. In 2004, the Antelope Valley Blight Redevelopment Plan was enacted and a key component of that plan was flood protections, not only on a macro level by taking large numbers of structures – as Donna talked about earlier – out of the floodplain, but also on the individual level with projects like Creekside Village built near Salt Creek, but at an elevation that put them out of the floodplain.
Tax increment financing was used to help protect the residents from flooding. We use affordable housing funds and TIF resources to help close any gaps caused by building at a safer level. For example, our new 20-year TIF adds an additional 20% in resources to help.
We want to build in the core, but we want to be smart and safe with those developments. By using all the resources at hand we can offset small project cost increases that have a large quick payback. For example, building safely only increases project costs by .25% to 1.50% and can easily be paid back by savings over the next two to three years with lower flood insurance costs. These are thoughtful updates that help support both our goals of affordable and safe housing.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you so much, Dan.
And again, I just wanna emphasize that the need to take steps now to ensure the public is safe from flooding is why we’re moving forward. And every month we wait is just another chance for a home or business to be built unsafely and too low; they will be flooded in a major storm event.
So it’s time to take action now to protect our community. And, with that, we would be happy to take any questions from the media who are here in person or via Zoom.
Unknown Reporter: Why… do we know why it’s gonna take… why is it gonna take like five to eight years? Why does it take so long?
Donna Garden, Assistant Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: For the maps to be updated, we have to do survey work of all of the new bridges, new detention ponds, new everything that went into the city in the last 50 years or more, I guess.
So that survey work takes time and that’s why it takes that much… so long to be able to get all of this done. It not only uses the new precipitation. But we also have to do that work as well.
Unknown Reporter: So I know you guys said that there are resources to help people be able to build affordable quality housing. Where should they seek those resources out? Like what is the best route for them to be able to achieve that?
Dan Marvin, Director of Urban Development: Yes. So, we are the lead agency on administering tax increment financing. So larger projects that would need or qualify for tax increment financing… we’re already working with those developers and future projects would come forward. They can certainly come through our office. There are also HUD and other dollars that are available on smaller type projects.
And then, on case by case basis, we do have resources through our affordable housing funds that would be available to help homeowners on cases where there might be a renovation of over 50% to assist them with some of those additional costs too.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: We have existing safety standards today and it’s a one-foot level above the floodplain. So anyone, any business, any homeowner who’d be looking to do this kind of major renovation or to build already has to meet a certain standard. We’re just taking that standard up a foot. So it’s an incremental difference in cost.
Moderator: First question from KFOR. Do you have any plans to help increase the flood-safe safety of structures within the new flood plains that aren’t being upgraded or rebuilt?
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Well, what I would say on that kind of general question of community safety is that one of the reasons we have a climate action plan is to be realistic about the climate risks we face and the impacts on real people.
And, so, as we move forward with our climate action strategies, we are going to be looking at how we protect people, how we raise awareness, how we inform neighborhoods of the risks they face, and work to come up with plans for community action that is in addition to government action.
Moderator: The next question is, what is the timetable and action path for final adoption of the new regulations?
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: This proposal goes before the planning commission this week, this Wednesday, and then it will be before the city council in December. I believe [the] public hearing is on the 12th with final action on the 19th.
Moderator: And last question. Does the current work on dead men’s run comply with the new flood maps, or is it going to be outdated when complete?
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: If it’s being done with the current maps, and I’m looking at my other expert in the audience, Tim Zach, he’s our superintendent of Stormwaters. So come on up and see if you can answer that one, that question.
Tim Zach, Superintendent of Stormwater with the Watershed Management Division: Thank you.
Yeah. The Dead Man’s Run Flood Control Project is being designed using the updated rainfall, as well as looking at future projections so that there won’t be properties put back into the floodplain.
Unknown Reporter: This last year, has that affected any of this data? Or is it going to be playing into the future planning of this?
Donna Garden, Assistant Director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities: That does not affect the data that we’re using for this update. But it will plan… it will go into future data as updates come along.
Leirion Gaylor Baird, Mayor of the City of Lincoln: Thank you.
Okay. Thank you so much for tuning in. We appreciate your coming to this news conference. And again, there’ll be opportunities for further public engagement before the planning commission and the city council in the coming weeks. And we’ll see you there. Thank you.
Amantha Dickman, News Director: And that was our city officials discussing the recent updates to our city’s flood and water quality protection standards.
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