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NRD board unanimous for lake
By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World-Herald

Construction of a 58-acre lake to anchor the "Memorial Park" of west Omaha received the green light Thursday - despite an overflow crowd of people opposed to the dam-building initiative.

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District board voted 8-0 to approve a partnership with Omaha-based Dial Cos. to build the dam.

About 120 people attended the meeting, voicing concerns about the cost of the land - $53,871 per acre - the partnership with the private developer and the possibility that the City of Omaha wouldn't take care of the planned park.

But the undercurrent of concern was what would happen down the road, when it was time for the district to turn its sights on Washington County, where two massive flood control lakes are proposed.

Those lakes would flood dozens of properties.

If the NRD is willing to spend more than $50,000 an acre in Douglas County, what's to stop it in Washington County, where land might sell for $5,000 an acre, asked Todd Andersen.

"These (dams) aren't cost-effective," he said. "I want to stop every one of them."

The next two dams that the district hopes to build are for a 215-acre lake at 168th and Fort Streets in Douglas County and a 100-acre lake near Nebraska Highway 31 and Giles Road in Sarpy County. In total, the district hopes to build up to 10 dams.

Thursday's vote stood in contrast to Tuesday, when the issue narrowly passed in committee on a 3-2 vote. Changing their minds were Joe Neary and Rich Jansen.

Board members remained split, though, over whether they saw the lake as genuine flood control.

"This project is basically a recreation project," Neary said. "If the city had not bought its property and was not going to do a park, I don't think the project could stand up to all of the money."

NRD board member John Conley took exception to Neary's comment.

"This is a flood control project," he said. "An expensive one, but it needs to be done."

The dam will control runoff from about 1 percent of the entire watershed. On the other hand, it would account for about 14 percent of the flood control that has been proposed in its section of the watershed.

The NRD's cost for the lake and dam is expected to be about $6.2 million, with $2.3 million of that being paid to Dial to build the dam. The NRD will own and retain liability for the dam.

Dial expects to spend about $11 million to $13 million developing its property into upscale houses, senior living and offices. Included in that is a $1 million payment to the NRD.

"There is no markup in this," Bob Welstead of Dial told the crowd Thursday. "No kind of funny business. We're side by side with the NRD, each paying the same price for the land."

Dial still needs approval from the cities of Elkhorn and Omaha. If all goes according to schedule, the dam is to be built next year, and the lake should fill in one to three years.

Larry Foster of the Omaha Parks Department said it will be about seven to 10 years before the park is built. However, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, he said, will build a boat access as soon as the lake is ready.

The lake will be along 192nd Street between West Dodge Road and Blondo Street.

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