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Flooding tops Associated Press list of Nebraska news stories in 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 06 January 2012 21:04

By Nelson Lampe

Associated Press


A summer of historic flooding along the Missouri River was voted Nebraska’s top story in 2011, according to a survey of the state’s Associated Press newspaper and broadcast members.

The Army Corps of Engineers released massive amounts of water from dams along the Missouri River in South Dakota this year to deal with heavy rains and above-average snowmelt, which led to the flooding.

Floodwaters caused $630 million in damage to the levees, dams and channels built to control the river, which runs more than 2,300 miles from Montana through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. State officials estimated the Nebraska damage at about $150 million.

Critics said the corps failed in its duty to protect property, but an expert panel said in a report released Dec. 20 that the corps did what it could with the record flooding.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline finished second in the AP survey, which was conducted Dec. 5-14.

Heavy political pressure in Washington and Lincoln forced the company to agree to change its route through Nebraska to avoid the state’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and places where groundwater sits close to the surface.

Federal officials decided to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until they study new routes for the pipeline in Nebraska.

Two pipeline measures were passed by the Legislature during a special session in November.

One law authorizes the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct an environmental review of pipeline projects, including the Keystone XL. The second law asserts Nebraska’s authority over future oil pipeline projects.

The No. 3 story was the nearly $1 billion projected budget deficit that dominated the regular legislative session.

The two-year, $7 billion budget Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law in May cut state agency spending while avoiding raising taxes in erasing the deficit danger.

Husker football was the survey’s No. 4 story. The team finished 9-3 during its first Big Ten season and prepared to face the University of South Carolina in the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 2.

A deadly Jan. 5 shooting at Millard South High School in Omaha finished No. 5. A suspended 17-year-old student, Robert Butler Jr., shot and killed assistant principal Vicki Kaspar and wounded the principal before he fled the school and killed himself. Butler was the son of an Omaha police detective and used his father’s handgun in the attack.

The No. 6 story was the 17-year-old Nebraska girl who became Miss America. Teresa Scanlan was a Gering resident who graduated from Scottsbluff High School in May 2010. She won the Miss Nebraska title in June 2010 and was crowned Miss America in Las Vegas on Jan. 15, 2011.

Finishing No. 7 in the survey was news about state efforts to privatize child services. A legislative committee and the state auditor’s office harshly criticized the administration efforts. The committee said the plan lacked specific goals, had no clear timetable and failed to consider the true cost of the reform that was at least $30 million more expensive than expected.

The end of football and wrestling programs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha was survey’s No. 8 story. The two men’s sports were dropped as the school moved to Division I.

The No. 9 Nebraska story was how the state has been growing in population. Census estimates showed that Nebraska’s population grew at a faster rate than the total U.S. population for two years in a row between 2008 and 2010. Experts say that’s likely because of the relative strength of the state’s economy. But the state grew slower than the whole nation between July 2010 and 2011.

Finishing No. 10 was the continuing story about Nebraska and its death penalty. Nebraska tried to set a date for its first execution in more than 13 years, but questions about the state’s supply of one of three drugs needed to carry out lethal injections forced more delays. Nebraska has not executed an inmate since 1997, and there are 11 men on death row.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 January 2012 21:05