Golf course architect Kevin Norby and contractor Landscapes Unlimited are assisting the city of Columbus in Nebraska in repairing the Quail Run golf course, which suffered floodwater damage in 2019.
In March 2019, the Loup River – located south of the golf course – broke its banks and covered 11 holes with nine feet of water. “When the water receded, the extent of the damage was staggering,” said Norby. “Large chunks of ice the size of automobiles were strewn around the course, 100-year-old cottonwood trees were stripped of bark and dozens of trees were uprooted. Irrigation pumps and heads and the control system were also uprooted, park shelters were destroyed, and benches and course signage had vanished. As flood waters receded and the city began clearing debris, they discovered that the course was buried under a million cubic yards of sand and silt.”
The city had dealt with water damage to the golf course before, so it knew it was eligible to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
City staff completed a clean-up of fallen trees and silt removal in September 2019, initially funded by the city’s general fund and later repaid once FEMA funding was approved.
“Typically, FEMA will cover 75 per cent of the restoration costs with the remaining cost being covered by the state and local government,” said Norby. “In the case of Quail Run, the total damage exceeded $1.5 million dollars.”
Approvals from FEMA were slowed down due to the pandemic with funding for the course’s irrigation repairs coming in August 2020. Those repairs were completed in October and final approval for repairing bunkers and regrassing fairways and rough came in later that month.
Norby and the Landscapes team have worked together on a number of FEMA-funded golf course restoration projects before, and this experience has helped them with work at Quail Run. Without proper guidance and documentation, FEMA could have potentially rejected any claims from the city. Now, over a year later, Quail Run has completed the first phase of the golf course restoration.
Landscapes Unlimited plans to begin construction in spring 2021 so the course can reopen by autumn.
“If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that the storm damage has provided the city with the opportunity to make some needed improvements,” said Norby. “Once completed, 11 holes will have wider landing areas, new fairway and rough turf, new irrigation, cart paths and bunkers.”
Golfers will play a temporary nine-hole routing while the 11 affected holes are reconstructed.
“The routing of the course will not change,” said Norby. “We have made some recommendations to add new forward tees and to reposition some of the bunkers to make the course more playable and more strategic. Because FEMA will only fund reconstruction in-kind, we are still waiting on what changes we can make.”