Lincoln Mayor announces support for proposed second water source

LINCOLN, Nebraska (Nebraska) – Leirion Mayor Gaylor Baird announced Monday her support for a second source of water in Lincoln. The City will develop a well on the Missouri River and an underground pipeline to provide access.

The Mayor’s 27-member Water Sources Advisory Board made a recommendation in mid-January after a comprehensive review launched in August 2022.

“Water management and safety is one of my administration’s highest priorities as we strive to ensure the long-term success of our growing city,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. “Like the Advisory Board, I believe the Missouri River well alternative is the best option for securing our second water source and the best investment for Lincoln’s future. I am confident that this route will lead to permanent water independence and economic prosperity.”

The Advisory Board’s recommendation suggests that the City build a well and sewage treatment plant near the Missouri River and pipe potable water to Lincoln.

The Advisory Board, which includes water experts, community and business leaders, evaluated 14 alternatives as part of the Water 2.0: Protecting Lincoln’s Second Source project.

The group used seven factors to analyze potential alternatives, including: reliability, management, life cycle cost, operation, implementation, environmental management, and stakeholder impact. The Advisory Board reviewed the data and consulted with experts in engineering, water, law, economics, and the environment on how each alternative would affect the factors they identified.

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities director Liz Elliott said the Advisory Board devoted nearly 40 hours to this work over a nine-month period.

“As part of this historic effort, the Advisory Board reviewed a wealth of technical information as we compared the benefits, implications, and limitations for each alternative,” Elliott said. “The group focused on the facts and, in the end, recommended an alternative that will protect our future generations for another 100+ years. I am proud of their work and look forward to implementing their recommendations in our city team.”

Advisory Board Chair Susan Seacrest said the Missouri River well and underground pipeline to Lincoln alternative had the highest reliability of the seven viable alternatives analyzed. She said the option would offer a long-term solution and a life cycle that could supply water beyond 2075.

“This option provides the most redundancy of all the alternatives considered. This means the project will enhance Lincoln’s ability to deal with potential natural disasters, such as the 2019 flood that damaged Lincoln’s Platte River wells,” Seacrest said. “By using the Missouri River as a second source, we increase our ability to successfully deal with any future water challenges.”

Additional benefits include easier implementation with minimal water supply and the ability to maintain city autonomy, according to Lincoln officials. The Missouri River well and underground pipeline also offer Lincoln the potential to help neighboring communities provide clean and safe water.

Future operations at the new facility will be similar to Lincoln’s current operations at the current City facility in Ashland. The Missouri well field and pipeline to Lincoln is estimated at $1.39 billion and will take 15 to 20 years to build.

Mayor Gaylor Baird thanked State Senators Eliot Bostar and Anna Wishart for their work securing $20 million in funding for the American Rescue Plan Act in the 2021-2022 legislative session. In the current 2022-23 legislative session, Bostar unveiled LB506, which will receive $200 million in federal state coronavirus recovery funds to kick-start the project. Mayor Gaylor Baird supports this legislation.

The advisory board also supports and encourages the city to explore all future efforts that could improve the safety of Lincoln’s water supply. This includes a review by cities of the benefits and implications of how a potential large public reservoir could contribute to community life, Lincoln’s economy, and long-term water planning efforts. This project is currently being discussed in the Nebraska Legislature.

State Senator and Advisory Council Vice Chairman Eliot Bostar said he applauds the Advisory Council’s and the Mayor’s foresight in exploring additional water supplies.

“The Missouri River site and underground pipeline to Lincoln will help preserve Lincoln’s longstanding independence from water, as well as increase the city’s flexibility and autonomy in how it can maintain a reliable water supply during floods, droughts, and other potential weather challenges,” Sen. Bostar . said.

The City’s next steps include conducting research, testing, technical analysis, and preliminary design to validate this solution. Mayor Gaylor Baird also thanked Olsson, who was contracted to help the city and the Mayor’s Water Sources Advisory Board navigate design, construction, financial, legal and managerial options.

“Water 2.0: Protecting Lincoln’s Second Source” Open House will be held March 7 from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Southwest High School.

For more information about the project, visit the City of Lincoln website.

The Mayor’s Water Sources Advisory Board included:

  • Chair – Susan Seacrest, founder and former president of the Nebraska Groundwater Foundation.
  • Vice Chairman – Eliot Bostar, State Senator, District 29.
  • The head of the city is Elizabeth Elliott, director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities.
  • Brittney Albin, Sustainability Coordinator, Lincoln Public Schools
  • Tom Beckius, Lincoln City Council Member, At-Large
  • David Carey, Director of Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department
  • Andrew Dunkley, Director of State Government Affairs, Nebraska Farm Bureau
  • Sean Flowerday, Lancaster County Commissioner, District 1
  • Donna Garden, Assistant Director, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities
  • Glenn Johnson, former CEO of Lower Platte Southern Natural Resources District
  • Tut Kaileh, Community Builder, Neighborworks Lincoln
  • Mark LeBaron, CEO of Lincoln Industries
  • Gene McClure, Executive Director of the American Board of Engineering Companies of Nebraska
  • T. J. McDowell, Senior Advisor to Mayor Gaylor Baird, One Lincoln Initiative
  • Richard Meginnis, Lincoln City Councilman, District 2
  • Kennon Meyer, Attorney, Blankenau Wilmot Jarek LLP
  • Michon Morrow, Assistant Chief of the Lincoln Police Department
  • Jerry Obrist, former department head of Lincoln Water System
  • Trish Owen, Vice President of Corporate Operations, Lincoln Electric System
  • Chittaranjan Ray, UNL professor and director of the Nebraska Aquatic Center
  • Lynn Rex, Executive Director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities
  • Holly Salmi, Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy, State Chamber of Commerce
  • Laurie Seibel, President and CEO, Community Health Endowment
  • Martha Shulsky, Nebraska climate scientist
  • Kathy Wilson, Executive Director, Nebraska Associated General Contractors
  • Todd Wiltgen, Public Policy Specialist, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce
  • Anna Wishart State Senator District 27

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