SPENCER — Drinking water is being restored in a far northern Nebraska county after a disastrous flood washed out a water main in March.
Workers began installing a new pipe through a recently completed tunnel beneath the Niobrara River in Boyd County on Tuesday.
Water could be provided to Spencer, Lynch, Anoka and nearby farms in about two weeks, Boyd County Rural Water District officials said. Potable water will not be available until testing and sanitation work is complete.
The district provided no timeline.
Originally, the community got its water from four wells on the south side of the river, but the spring flooding wiped out the Spencer Dam and created a new river channel.
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"There were a lot of weeks with discouraging news, but we're past that now," Gail Spencer of Boyd County Rural Water District #2 said. "Things are really starting to happen. Finally."
At its deepest point, the new pipe will be about 83 feet beneath the river, which is now three times wider than it was before the floods.
The water district has been providing residents in the rural county with water for showering, washing and toilets from three refurbished irrigation wells, and has been distributing free bottles of drinking water.
There wasn't enough water for gardens, lawns and the estimated 40,000 head of cattle in the area, said Rex Black, chairman of the water district board.
The project is expected to cost about $2 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover 75% of costs and the district will come up with the remainder, Black said.
A state loan and money raised through a GoFundMe account will cover the district's portion of the expenses until the FEMA funds arrive.
The flooding this spring that washed over communities along the Missouri River in Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and agriculture.