Omaha receives funding help for sewer overhaul

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December 21st, 2011

Omaha, NE – Omaha received a bit of help Wednesday to pay for a massive sewer overhaul project.

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A little over a million dollars, $1,116,000, has been awarded to the city from the Environmental Protection Agency. In a statement, the EPA said the funds would go toward sewer improvements: specifically a $7.8 million dollar sewer separation project that’s already underway in Omaha’s Country Club neighborhood. But that’s just a small piece of a big picture.

Mayor Jim Suttle estimates the CSO will create 2,000 jobs over the lifetime of the project. (Photo credit Omaha CSO)

“It’s a relatively small dent on the overall program cost,” said Marty Grate is the Environmental Services Manager for the city. “But certainly a million dollars is a million dollars, and we appreciate the work of Senator Nelson’s office in helping champion this cause.”

Grate said the grant was part of an earmarked fund from 2009 and 2010: one the city has received regularly over the last eight years. The price tag of the whole project is up to $1.7 billion. That’s an unfunded federal mandate for Omaha to overhaul its aging sewer system and bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle will be heading back to Washington D.C. in January to continue the call for federal assistance. “Mayor Suttle’s been emphatic for some time now that he believes that if the federal government is going to require this project to take place that they should partner with us and provide 50 percent of the funding.”

Grate said Suttle feels like he’s making some progress in Washington. And he said Nebraska’s Congressional delegation is “well aware” of the burden of the program and are doing what they can to help. In the meantime, funding for the CSO is planned to come directly from ratepayers, who have already seen their sewer bills jump.

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