Funding from the CDBG program helped the City of Cambridge address a major public works issue, resulting in enhanced public health and safety.

Prior to 2016, heavy rains usually meant standing and pooling water in low-lying portions of Cambridge, Nebraska (population 1,153)—the result of an inadequate drainage system. For years, the issues that accompanied the flooding not only generated significant costs to the city, but endangered the health and property of residents.

Gravel roads in the affected areas were frequently damaged by the rains, riddled with potholes or turned into washboard surfaces. Entire streets sometimes became impassable in the wake of a storm; at the very least, citizens were forced to avoid them. And each year, the City paid a heavy price to resurface its water-torn roads.

The direct impact on citizens was no less severe. As it happened, the flooding occurred mostly in the southeast portions of Cambridge, an area containing many of the city’s low and moderate income residents. And in the warm months, the standing water became a mosquito breeding-ground, exposing the population to an increased risk of West Nile virus.

Unable to fund a proposed flood mitigation plan on its own, in 2013, the City sought the assistance of the CDBG program, and was granted $160,500 to support drainage system improvements. With the help of local match, that year saw new culverts installed to discharge storm sewer runoff toward the nearby Republican River and away from Cambridge’s low-lying residential areas.

When the drainage project was complete, citizens experienced immediate relief.

“Following the project, the city was able to observe the results after a major rain storm, and the drainage system worked exactly as was intended. Storm runoff was handled quickly,” said Kandra Kinne, Cambridge City Clerk.

Soon thereafter, with most of the major work complete—and benefitting from money saved thanks to the CDBG program—the city was able to contribute local dollars to pave gravel roads in the afflicted area.

“The City would not have been able to make the project a priority for residents without the use of the Community Development Block Grant Program,” said Kinne.