NORTHEAST, Neb. -- There was no action taken during Thursday's meeting, but there were plenty of discussions when it came to the Battle Creek watershed plan.

The conversation at the LENRD focused on the economic side of the proposed three dam structure to stop Battle Creek from flooding. An economic analyst met via Zoom with board members to break down the preliminary cost-benefit ratio of the potential project. According to the analyst, Michael Verdone, the project would cost $64,172,332 and would bring in $67,407,967 in benefits. This results in a 1.05 cost-benefit ratio, and $3.2 million which would allow the project to qualify for federal funds, though just barely. In order to qualify for federal funding, the cost-benefit ratio must be greater than 1.

However, many members of the board were unsatisfied with this breakdown as well as the method used to get these numbers. In the breakdown, Verdone had the value of the land depreciating over time, while board members said the cost of land was increasing. Director Mark Hall felt the analysis hadn't taken into account the number of crops that could have been produced on purchased lands. Other concerns were raised such as how more than the proposed amount of land in the project would need to be increased. This paired with the increase in land value may offset the cost-benefit ratio lower than 1.

The discussion then took a turn back to alternatives to the three dam proposal such as a potential levee system discussed back in March. The issue with many of the alternate proposals is the lack of federal funding available due to the cost-benefit ratio being below 1, resulting in a cost to local taxpayers. Director Chad Korth questioned why the LENRD has continued to study these projects without taking any action on them, and regardless of the plan chosen someone will be impacted.

"Either the city if we do nothing, the landowners upstream with a lake, or the landowners downstream from Battle Creek...somebody will be affected," Korth said. "Ultimately, we need to make a decision." 

Director Joel Hansen said he agreed with Korth that something needed to be done. However, he urged caution in abandoning the project studies in favor of a project that wasn't as researched and would potentially cost taxpayers more money. 

"We've been talking about it for 15 years it is time to do something," Hansen said, "but I don't think it's very responsible as elected officials to just say well I don't like that answer so I'm just going to vote to spend the extra $19 million...of local tax money because I wasn't willing to let the process play out."

The board will receive a finalize economic breakdown this summer.