HOLDREGE — Area irrigators used a nearly historic low amount of water this summer, based on numbers provided Monday by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District.

Also, several people asked CNPPID for better access to their fishing holes at East Phillips Lake.

Surface water irrigators in CNPPID’s primary service area of Phelps, Kearney and northern Gosper counties applied an average of 3.8 inches of water to their crops during the wet 2019 growing season.

Irrigation Operations Manager Dave Ford told the CNPPID Board on Monday the 32,450 acre-feet of total irrigation water delivered was the second lowest — next to 1993 — in the past 30 years.

Diversions of 113,946 acre-feet rank third lowest.

Ford said a big reason was rainfall throughout the service area.

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For example, Central’s headquarters in Holdrege measured 25.44 inches of precipitation during the April-through-September growing season, which was fifth most in the past 30 years and seventh most since 1957. Average rainfall since 1957 has been 19 inches.

Irrigation customers contract with CNPPID for a base delivery of 9 inches per acre. Minus allocation years when drought dropped water supplies in Lake McConaughy to extremely low levels, the 20-year average annual water use is 9 inches per acre, Ford said.

Customers may buy up to 9 additional inches in a growing season at a per-inch rate.

When asked by directors about the highest average in 2019, Ford said there were a few irrigators more than 9 inches, but those were “very isolated cases.”

Earlier Monday, civil engineer Tyler Thulin reported that Lake McConaughy was at 89.7 percent full — 1.56 million a-f — with current inflows of 2,000 cubic feet per second and releases of 1,700 cfs.

Thulin said federal Bureau of Reclamation officials have cut all releases from Wyoming reservoirs upstream on the North Platte River, so Lake McConaughy inflows will drop significantly in the next few days.

Also, releases from an environmental account of water in Big Mac ceased after it was determined they weren’t needed to meet U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service target flows at Grand Island for wildlife habitat.

Ford said that from Sept. 12 to Sept. 30, Platte water that exceeded target flows was diverted into Elwood Reservoir for groundwater recharge. Water managers will look at possible additional diversions in mid-November, when target flow requirements will be lower.

East Phillips Lake

Also Monday, several people from the Johnson Lake, Bertrand and Loomis areas who use East Phillips Lake for fishing asked CNPPID officials about access improvements.

Road access and a boat ramp currently are not available on the south side of the lake between Johnson Lake and the J-2 hydropower plant.

Randy Myers of Bertrand, a spokesman for the group, said the Gosper County road has washed out and the boat dock is silted in.

“Hopefully, Game and Parks and Tri-County (the original name of the irrigation district) are working on a plan,” he said. “... We’d just like it if we can get in there.”

The group was told the Game and Parks Commission is responsible for the ramp and camping area. However, CNPPID has contracted with the JEO engineering firm for an alternatives feasibility study that should be completed in February.

CNPPID Natural Resources and Compliance Manager Mike Drain said the study’s focus is a possible new access route and boat ramp on the north side of East Phillips Lake. He added that costs also are part of the study.

Gosper County Board member Bruce Bader, who represents the lake area, said county officials would like to see an alternative because road access is a concern for law enforcement and other emergency responders.

“It’s a neat little campground hidden up there that people like,” Bader said, but he thinks its users would be OK with a new lake access that doesn’t have a camping area, if they can get to East Phillips Lake to fish.

In other business, the board approved:

- A $64,269.43 requisition to purchase PVC pipe from Diamond Plastics of Grand Island and two work orders to close an irrigation lateral northwest of Holdrege and replace it with a pipeline.

- A $27,071 work order for Beehive GIS of Lincoln as the district’s new geographic information system provider.

- A $103,465.98 progress estimate payment to Allen Blasting & Coating Inc. of Wever, Iowa, for preparations to paint the J-2 penstock and surge tank.

- Contributing $20,000 from lake improvement funds to Lakeside Golf Club to assist with costs to join onto the sanitary improvement district at Johnson Lake.

lori.potter@kearneyhub.com

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