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Water rescues on the Elkhorn River lead to safety concerns

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 19:30:52-04

WATERLOO, Neb. (KMTV) — A rescue call on the Elkhorn River is raising questions about safety after spring flooding. Waterloo rescue crews were called out to pull a group of tubers from the river. We've had a few people reach out since then asking if it's even safe to be on the water?

"I think they couldn't get themselves away from the trees as the current flowed through there," says Dale Stork, Rescue Captain for the Waterloo Fire Department. "There's a lot of trees that are down full 40, 50, 60 foot trees that have fallen off the bank they are now in the river, some are visible some are not."

The floods not only caused a lot of damage on land, but also changed the river. Since it removed so much sand from the river, it has made the river deeper, which means more water is flowing through it. "It's flowing a lot faster and it's a lot more hazardous right now," says Stork.

According to Stork, the tubers got their equipment from Uncle Scott's Outfitters, a tubing business along the Elkhorn, which appeared to be closed Friday.

"It's careless and wreck less of those who care about profits more than they do the safety of the public," says Rich Tesar, Director of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. "Right now (the river) is really unsafe, there is a lot of hidden debris underneath the water."

The river is not closed however, and businesses along it can still send people out if they choose to according to N.R.D. Brock Beran, owner of Tubing and Adventures on the Elkhorn says it's important to let customers know the risks.

"After the flood there is some additional risks there is a lot of debris out there the channel's a little bit deeper so we make sure that we relay that to our customers," says Beran.

Stork says the water elevation is around 4.5 feet, which is below the 5 foot mark the N.R.D. uses when deciding to shut down river access. Beran says the water elevation on the Elkhorn has been consistent with years past. "There hasn't been anything released about differences in elevation, this is an elevation that we've been using for years and years and years."

If you do decide to go out on the river, be sure to have a life jacket. Stay in the middle of the river to avoid the debris as best you can.