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Long Road Of Repairs Ahead For Flood-Damaged Southwest Iowa County Roads

Flooding has heavily damaged some southwest Iowa county roads. The roads are a major hurdle preventing some displaced people from returning to their homes.
Baseline Road, J-34, just south of Percival in Fremont County is missing about 1 foot of shoulder. County Assistant Engineer Robbie Kromminga said if a truck were to drive off of it, “it’s just going to flip the truck and probably kill somebody.”

200th street just north of Percival has holes full of water. The base, rock and shoulders are gone.

“This is two weeks-worth of work to just make it usable,” Kromminga said. “We’re literally going to have to start at the first hole, start filling that hole and just go hole to hole to hole as we fill the road as we go.”

Just outside of Bartlett, a bridge is missing and there’s a hole full of water estimated up to 60 feet deep.

“We’ve got to fill that hole before we can put a bridge in here,” Kromminga said.

The county roads department has started making quick fixes and temporary repairs to roads using a dozer, a motor grader and other equipment to fill in holes so the Federal Emergency Management Agency can drive out and assess the damage flooding has done to homes, said County Engineer Dan Davis. They'll also have to bring contractors in for some of the repairs.

The Missouri River at Nebraska City, Neb. is still above minor flood stage, and they’ll have to wait for the river to go down a bit before making more permanent repairs to roads, he said.

“We don’t want to repair them once to...within the next week, have a minor [flooding] event come through. It could do damage to the roads we’ve just got completed,” Davis said. 

Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius told Iowa Public Radio last week that the road conditions are a major factor in the county's decision to allow people to go back home.

“We’ve got to get rid of water and we’ve got to get some roads fixed before we can, with a clear conscience, allow people to go back out there,” Crecelius said last week.

The county roads department estimates repairs could cost at least $6 million and could take months to 2 years. Davis said FEMA covers 75 percent of the cost while Fremont County will cover 15 percent of the cost and the state picks up 10 percent.

The Federal Highway Administration can reimburse the county 100 percent for emergency repairs made within the first 180 days after a disaster.

A spokeswoman for Mills County, north of Fremont County, said the county estimates road repairs will be over $14 million. 

This story has been updated. 

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.