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Flooding in Ashland Area, 3.14

Floodwaters swarm over city of Lincoln wellfields northeast of Ashland on Thursday.

Lincoln has been on somewhat of an island amid the extensive flooding in eastern Nebraska this week.

But the city of Lincoln's wellfields near Ashland are literally on an island, in the middle of some of the worst flooding conditions.

With the Platte River rising beyond initial projections, city officials scrambled Friday to protect Lincoln's wells.

Donna Garden, assistant director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, said erosion caused by the rising river was threatening the city's largest well.

Mayor Chris Beutler signed an emergency order that allows the city to get help from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard, if needed.

City officials stressed that both the quantity and quality of Lincoln's water are unaffected by the flooding, adding that the threatened well is isolated from the system, which otherwise is operating normally.

The emergency order was a proactive move to protect the $10 million well from damage.

"It's a big asset for us, and we want to protect it," Garden said.

The National Guard will deploy its helicopters to strategically place 400 large sandbags to help fortify the banks of the Platte River around the city's wells and pipelines. The city also will work with JEO Consulting Group to fly a drone over the wellfield to inspect it and identify the best areas to place sandbags.

Additionally, Lincoln Fire and Rescue's water rescue team will deploy a boat and four members to support monitoring of the wellfield and any repair operations that become necessary.

Friday morning, a transformer supplying electricity to one of the wells flooded, lost power and must be replaced, city officials said.

The Platte was at 23.7 feet at Ashland on Friday afternoon, above its record crest of 23 feet. Though it was forecast to recede beginning Friday night, Garden said the city did not want to wait to see if its well would be OK.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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