CASS COUNTY, Neb. (WOWT) – Hydroplane operators along the Platte River are concerned about a danger that is not always visible. It hides just below the surface when water levels are rising.
The Platte River may look like a runway, but near the Highway 50 bridge it is not wise for boaters to take off.
“So you can see the iron sticking out there,” said boater Don Larsen.
The jagged remains of a railway bridge were demolished decades ago, but dangers remain for tubers and boaters.
“When the water is high, you can’t see it, so if you come in here with the boat and hit it, that brings out the bottom of your boat,” Larsen said.
Stinger Airboat Rides owner Kirk Huxhold will not be doing tours beyond Highway 50.
“It would be really nice if they were removed and it would prevent everyone from going under the bridge,” said Kirk Huxhold.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“You can’t just take them out of the water, you have to physically remove them mechanically. You have to build a temporary bridge to access the river in order to remove them, ”said John Winkler, Papio NRD.
About five years ago, an alliance of natural resource districts spent over a million dollars in taxes to remove several old pilings at another location and cannot afford to do so here.
“We don’t have the budget to come here and find all the obstacles to remove it. It’s technically impossible to do, ”Winkler said.
Boaters say it’s worth it.
They are not always on the river for fun. They are often called upon to volunteer for search and rescue missions.
Larsen spent two weeks searching for a drowning victim.
“We had a dead dog and a sheriff in the boat. If we had hit a stack, who knows who would have been hurt, ”Larsen said.
When the dangers of iron are obscured by higher water, boaters are guided below deck by an arrow. But Don and Kirk say a homemade warning isn’t enough to prevent potential tragedy.
“Well, if they go 50 to 60 miles an hour and hit one of them, you can imagine how far you would fly,” Larsen said.
Papio NRD director says the original railroad that owned the bridge is likely either gone or merged with another and any legal fight would be too costly.
So, to warn boaters when the river is going down, the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team leader began spray painting the exposed piles.
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