Clean up and repairs on trails and roads are ongoing at Boyer Chute and DeSoto national wildlife refuges after last spring's flooding and continually high water levels on the Missouri River throughout much of 2019.
Tom Cox, refuge manager at Boyer Chute and DeSoto, said that the river is low enough currently for refuge personnel to access Boyer Chute, while DeSoto is open to the public. As of noon Friday, the Missouri River was at 16.25 feet at Blair, which is about 10 feet lower than flood stage.
"We've been able to access into (Boyer Chute), and we've started clean up there," Cox said. "But I'm afraid the refuge will stay closed until the county roads open up."
County Road 34, which accesses Boyer Chute, has been closed since at least the spring of 2016 due to an unstable ditch. The road became flooded last spring when the Missouri River overflowed its banks.
Washington County Highway Supt. Bill Hansel said he has been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management System and the Nebraska Emergency Management System regarding funding for repairs on CR 34 and surrounding roads. Construction on the road by Sibbernsen Excavating of Valley to repair a section that eroded due to the unstable ditch was affected by flooding, and waters also washed away a 100 foot stretch of the road.
"We won't be able to open Boyer Chute to the public, we'll just have to coordinate that with Washington County," Cox said. "Once we have safe roads back in the area, then we'll be able to open up to the public."
Cox said refuge personnel hadn't been able to reach all of Boyer Chute's trails as of Thursday. But the trails that were reached were damaged.
"There's definitely going to have to be some change of our routes in our trail system that are there," Cox said, adding that the roads at the site are intact. "They're just buried in some cases under a foot of sand or mud."
DeSoto, Cox said, is currently operating normally.
"The gravel road section is open for access while the weather is cold enough. When it gets too warm, that road's going to be too soft, and we'll have to close it otherwise people will get stuck out there," he said. "But, right now, it's open, people can drive the entire loop."
There are, however, two sections of asphalt road that were washed out from flooding.
"We're working currently with the federal highways to get those repairs going," Cox said.
Cox said information about Boyer Chute and DeSoto can be found by calling 712-388-4800.
"We can update you on whether or not Boyer is open, or what's open here at DeSoto before somebody drives out," he said. "There's always going to be something open here at DeSoto."