HOLDREGE — Lake McConaughy is ending the 2019 irrigation season at nearly 90 percent full, after dropping approximately only 1 foot this summer.

“Our peak is at the end of irrigation season,” Hydraulic Project Operations Manager Cory Steinke told the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District board Tuesday in Holdrege. “That’s the kind of year it’s been ... We actually went up the last couple of weeks because of upstream precipitation and the low (irrigation) demand down here.”

Steinke told the Hub that a typical irrigation season lake drawdown is 10-15 feet.

Earlier in the meeting, civil engineer Tyler Thulin reported that Nebraska’s largest lake was at elevation 3258.8 and had gone up 0.6 of a foot in the past two weeks.

As of Tuesday morning, the lake was at 89.5 percent of full, with 1,559,700 acre-feet of water.

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Thulin said North Platte River inflows were at 2,600 cubic feet per second and releases were at 2,500 cfs. He added that federal Bureau of Reclamation officials plan to keep releases from upstream reservoirs in Wyoming at current rates for another week or two as contributions to an “environmental account” of water stored in Lake McConaughy for future releases to benefit downstream habitat used by threatened and endangered species.

Meanwhile, an extension of CNPPID surface water service to irrigation customers, mostly in Gosper, Phelps and Kearney counties, has started.

At the August board meeting, Irrigation Operations Manager Dave Ford said there would be a two-week extension of irrigation water service because of a lag in crop maturity due to late planting of corn and soybeans during a wet spring.

“The demand isn’t very high,” he said Tuesday, and some customers already are picking up irrigation pipe because soil moisture remains good and they saw another good rain within the past 10 days.

Ford said Central’s partners in groundwater recharge projects in the three counties will be contacted to determine if there are options to use some excess flows in the Central system. The water could go into irrigation canals and possibly Elwood Reservoir to seep into the groundwater.

Some Rainwater Basin wetlands that also can get water from the CNPPID system currently are full, Ford added.

In other business, the board:

- Approved a bid of $28,860 from Skyline Tower Painting of Scottsbluff to paint communications towers at Holdrege and Gothenburg.

- Approved a $55,000 work order for digital chart recorders at the Jeffrey, Johnson 1 and Johnson 2 hydropower plants.

- Approved a final payment and closure of a $947,957 contract with Norfolk Contracting Inc. for bridge replacements in Lincoln and Gosper counties.

- Approved the sale of a district right-of-way — approximately two acres — along an abandoned canal in Kearney County to the adjacent landowner for $1,500 per acre.

- Was told a study is underway to determine the feasibility of relocating or upgrading a dock and poorly maintained road to East Phillips Lake, which is east of Johnson Lake.

lori.potter@kearneyhub.com

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