Lake McConaughy

This photo, taken last week, shows a nearly full Lake McConaughy north of Ogallala. At right, the highway goes over Kingsley Dam. At left, water outlet structures in Nebraska’s largest lake — owned and operated by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District — reflect that it is at 89 percent of capacity.

HOLDREGE — The July 17 collapse of a 2,200-foot long irrigation canal tunnel near Fort Laramie, Wyo., has caused Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District officials to adjust management of water flowing into and out of Lake McConaughy.

In reports at Monday’s CNPPID board meeting in Holdrege, Hydraulic Project Operations Manager Cory Steinke and civil engineer Tyler Thulin said some water intended to irrigate more than 100,000 acres in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska has been bypassing those areas while tunnel repairs are being made.

North Platte River flows into Lake McConaughy have been at 1,800-1,900 cubic feet per second, Thulin said, but will be increased by 1,000 cfs soon with a release by officials from federal Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the North Platte River dams in Wyoming and manages water use from those reservoirs, including Glendo.

Steinke said a meeting planned for this afternoon will provide an update on tunnel repairs and the effects to farmers in the Goshen and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation Districts. The other area affected is the Murphy Ditch Company.

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Nebraska Panhandle farmers have said in media reports that even if repairs are made soon, some crops in fields irrigated exclusively with surface water may go nearly a month without water.

Thulin said Lake McConaughy is at 89 percent of capacity, with 1,551,200 acre-feet of water. Releases have been at 3,200 cfs and may drop back to 3,000 cfs.

He said Central staff have been keeping the CNPPID Supply Canal full. The same is true for Nebraska Public Power District irrigation canals for which water also is stored in Lake McConaughy.

Both districts also are generating a lot of hydropower, Thulin said.

“We have a lot of water,” Steinke said. “We’re looking at Wyoming (reservoirs) to be at 2 million a-f (in storage) at the end of this year.”

Thulin said Glendo Reservoir, which has been holding water for the irrigation districts affected by the tunnel issue, “is not full, but they’re trying not to get into flood pool.”

“We’re adjusting for that purpose,” Steinke said. “We’re in really good shape this year. We’re releasing water and looking forward to next year,” after seeing what Lake McConaughy looks like at the end of the 2019 irrigation season.

The season will extend later than usual for CNPPID customers who are mostly in Gosper, Phelps and Kearney counties. Irrigation Operations Manager Dave Ford said the plan to add another two-week irrigation run will result in water deliveries into mid-September.

Because of wet spring weather and late planting, crops are behind last year and the five-year average for maturity, Ford said, which is why there’s a need to extend irrigation service.

“Which is not unusual,” he said. “We usually go past a few days. This will be longer.”

Then, Central staff will work on a case-by-case basis with customers who still may need more irrigation water.

Typical growing season deliveries total 18 inches per acre over six runs. Ford said CNPPID irrigators will use a lot less than that this year because of the wet early growing season.

In other reports Monday, Electrical Project Operations Manager Eric Hixon said the foundation for a standby diesel generator is done at the J-1 hydro near Johnson Lake. Similar projects to install on-site generators to use instead of portable units also will be done at the Jeffrey and J-2 plants.

Government and Public Relations Manager Jeff Buettner said he gave a CNPPID tour last week for six state senators and two Natural Resources Committee staff members who “got their eyes open quite a bit, not only about our project, but the complexities all up and down the Platte River.”

In other business, the board approved:

- A $55,000 work order to construct a building around the Elwood Reservoir pump station.

- A $226,987.50 progress payment to Norfolk Contracting Inc. for bridge replacements in Lincoln and Gosper counties.

- A $17,880 proposal from JEO Consulting Group to do a feasibility study for a boat ramp in Phillips Canyon, between the J-1 and J-2 power plants.

- Closure of a $256,532.50 contract with NMC Caterpillar of Doniphan for a 2019 long-reach crawler excavator to be based on the Phelps Canal.

- Final payment of $151,583 and closure of contracts with Platte Valley Auto for five pickups.

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