$45M boost for Sarpy County sewer project that foresees billions in tax revenue

Project expects to open up thousands of rural acres for home and commercial development

By: - November 17, 2023 2:10 pm

A crew installs a trench box and shoring equipment that ensures worker safety during a major sewer infrastructure project that is to open up the southern region of already fast-growing Sarpy County in Nebraska. (Courtesy of Multivista)

BELLEVUE — A sewer project expected to open more than 10,000 acres of rural land for residential, commercial and other development in Nebraska’s fast-growing Sarpy County has received a financial boost.

A federal $45.3 million low-interest loan helps advance the first phase of a broader sewer extension plan that carries an overall price tag likely to exceed $250 million.

Work progresses on a major sewer system in southern Sarpy County. (Courtesy of Multivista)

Sarpy County officials announced the loan this week.

They say the overall project is vital to the continued growth of a county that’s home to Offutt Air Force Base and near urban Omaha.

“This project will change the landscape of Sarpy County,” said Don Kelly, chair of a multi-city entity guiding it. “With this investment, we can finish a critical segment of the project that will broaden the tax base of our communities and set the stage for continued growth, new amenities and better quality of life.”

The Sarpy County and Cities Wastewater Agency (SCCWA) — which represents the cities of Bellevue, Papillon, La Vista, Gretna and Springfield — was formed in 2017 to build the unified sanitary sewer system in the southern region of Sarpy County.

Driving the need is a ridge that cuts through the county. The land mass has long obstructed growth to the south of the ridge line due to lack of adequate sewer flow and infrastructure. The wastewater initiative aims to fix that.

SCCWA said it also has partnered with the City of Omaha to use Omaha’s wastewater treatment plant as part of the project.

With this investment, we can finish a critical segment of the project that will broaden the tax base of our communities and set the stage for continued growth, new amenities and better quality of life.

– Don Kelly, chair of wastewater agency overseeing the sewer project

The first $130 million phase kicked off last year with construction on two sewer lines, one extending to Springfield and the other through Bellevue. Those two are nearly complete, and the $45.3 million loan will support the construction of another line that connects the first two, according to a news release.

That first phase of about 19 miles of sewer line is expected to finish just before 2025.

“We’re thrilled to move forward thanks to the support of our community and financial partners who recognize how valuable this investment is to our community,” said Doug Kindig, vice chair of the wastewater agency and La Vista’s mayor.

Work on first phase of the new sewer system project in Sarpy County. (Courtesy of Multivista)

The newly announced loan is through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Sarpy County spokeswoman Katy Glover said it supplements a $70 million zero-interest loan from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, and a $10 million allotment from the state via Legislative Bill 814.

An economic impact study conducted last year for the SCCWA by Hunden Strategic Partners said that establishing sewer service south of the ridge line should spur new development projects north of the ridge as well.

Such growth would build the area’s population and tax base.

Among benefits projected in the Hunden study:

  • Roughly 10,660 acres would open up over the next three decades for new development into residential, commercial and industrial uses.
  • If that occurred, the State of Nebraska over those three decades could see $15.7 billion in tax revenue from sales, hotel, corporate income and personal income taxes. 
  • More than 4,500 full-time equivalent jobs would be created during a 30-year buildout, though Sarpy officials have said project completion could stretch into 50 years.

    Ridge line

    The orange line running through Sarpy County on this map is the “ridge line.” The new sewer system under construction will serve the area south of the ridge, opening that region up for new residential and commercial development. The dotted line is the boundary of Sarpy County. (Courtesy of Sarpy County)

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.