For the past 45 years the city of Beatrice has been buying properties in areas around the Big Blue River.
To date, 120 properties have been purchased by the city to use as green space, and FEMA recently took notice.
The properties are part of the city’s flood mitigation plan in which it buys properties to use as parks, ball fields or just green space to minimalize the risk of costly damage when floods strike.
Beatrice’s success with flood mitigation was the topic of a recent FEMA podcast that discussed what the city has done, and how other communities can learn from what’s occurred in Gage County.
“You always like being recognized for actions you’ve taken and the city of Beatrice should be proud that it’s seen nationally as one of the leaders in flood mitigation,” said City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer. “It’s been a long process that started clear back in the 1970s and continues through today, but the city, mayor and council members over the years need to be proud of those actions.”
Gage County Emergency Management Director Lisa Wiegand said the podcast has received international attention and is something area residents should explore to learn how city planning saves money.
“It’s a featured podcast that talks about the mitigation funds that the federal agency has given to the city of Beatrice as they make the purchases to get some of those flood plain areas cleaned up and then turned to parks and recreational areas,” she said. “That acquisition is a proactive measure for the mitigation portion of it and how those funds are being measured.”
Tempelmeyer, along with FEMA mitigation planner Laurie Bestgen and Katie Ringland with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, were guests on the 20-minute episode, which can be listed to for free on FEMA’s website. "Beatrice Nebraska; Successful Disaster Mitigation" is episode 26.
Tempelmeyer said in addition to reducing damage by buying properties – It was stated on the podcast that every $1 spent on properties can save $6 in the event of a flood – those properties have been put to good use and now include two of the largest parks and the Scott Street ball fields.
“Lives, homes and businesses are no longer at risk,” Tempelmeyer said on the podcast. “The water floods these open space areas and when it recedes, life can go on as usual without much interruption.”
The episode recaps Beatrice’s history of flooding over the years, which has included one major flood roughly every 10 years. In addition to reducing property damage, Tempelmeyer pointed out the manpower savings in the rescue and law enforcement departments.
Tempelmeyer said there are remaining properties the city would like to eventually own, but the process is a long one and it can be easy to put flood planning in the back of your mind during dry times.
“When you’re buying a property during a drought or dry period it’s hard to remember the flood that occurred six years ago, or even six months ago, and how that will save the city and taxpayers money in the future,” he said. “Going back and having the opportunity to review that history through the podcast, you see how those actions have made a big difference going forward.”