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Lake Zorinsky tree removal moves forward, some residents upset

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – An update on an Omaha couple’s fight to save trees behind their home.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been cutting boundary space around Lake Zorinsky. A controversy was brought to light when they looked at removing 50 trees.

Despite taking a stand against the removal of the trees, Kim Latacha watched until none were left standing.

“All the animals that visit us on a regular basis and the birds that call these trees home, all of that was just destroyed in less than 30 minutes,” Latacha said.

The trees are not on her property but right behind it on land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is required to maintain a clear buffer all around Lake Zorinsky.

“There’s a boundary management piece to it where we got to be able to inspect and maintain the boundary,” Project Manager Tommy Aldmeyer said.

But Kim and her husband started a campaign to save the trees behind their home and just down the trail.

Despite the letter writing, phone calls and signs, the Corps of Engineers project to remove the trees has moved ahead.

The Army Corps of Engineers states there will be many long-term benefits of the project, like planting native grasses that improve maintenance and emergency access. Also public safety improves by reducing the risk of fallen trees or limbs.

“There’s been some opposition to the project that’s for sure, but we’ve had a lot of positive influence too,” Aldmeyer said. “There’s been some people now able to do some maintenance based on the access we’re giving them.”

Latacha says as a taxpayer her money is being used to alter a view that could affect the value of her home.

“It completely changed our entire view of our backyard, it’s very frustrating that you as a property owner have no control over what is happening.”

In a statement to 6 News, the Army Corps of Engineers acknowledges the frustration the tree clearing has caused to some adjacent neighbors. But to fulfill the responsibility of creating a narrow boundary corridor around the entire Lake Zorinsky property, the project manager has his marching orders.

The Army Corps of Engineers says there has been extensive communication since the project started five years ago. The Corps asks for patience from the community while all phases are completed.

Kim and Matt Latacha say more trees continue to be cut down around Lake Zorinsky and they will maintain opposition to the project on social media.

Read the Full Statement from the Army Corps of Engineers:

“USACE has provided extensive communication on these efforts since this project’s inception in 2017, and we remain committed to maintaining frequent and transparent communication throughout the remainder of these efforts. As the US Army Corps of Engineers continues our multi-phase effort to reestablish a boundary corridor at Lake Zorinsky, we acknowledge the frustration that this project has caused to some adjacent neighbors. There will be many long-term benefits of the project including planting native grasses that improve maintenance and emergency access, public safety, and mitigation of environmental hazards such as fallen trees or limbs. We are committed to properly fulfilling our responsibilities and following regulations during the re-establishment of this narrow maintenance corridor around the entire property. We appreciate continued patience from the community as all phases are completed.”

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