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Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Students Visit Lake McConaughy

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Students Visit Lake McConaughy

Students from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis visited Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughy on Nov. 15 for what is becoming something of a tradition.

The tour was facilitated by Dayna Wasserburger, Southwest Regional membership director for the Nebraska Farm Bureau. Brad Ramsdale, PhD, professor of agronomy at NCTA, accompanied the students as he has several times in the past.

The group first listened to a presentation by Nate Nielsen, Central’s Kingsley Dam foreman, about Central’s hydro-irrigation project before the group visited the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Water Interpretive Center. In the center, the students participated in a number of interactive activities that demonstrated the various uses and importance of water.

curtistechfarmbureautour

Students from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) in Curtis wave to the camera during a tour of the Kingsley Hydroplant.

nateandcurtistechkids

Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen explains the operation and function of the Outlet Tower at Kingsley Dam to NCTA students.

After a five-minute audio presentation about water resources in the Platte River Basin, the group headed out to get a first-hand look at the “Morning Glory” spillway and the Control Tower, the outlet structures for Kingsley Dam. The tour concluded with a visit inside the Kingsley Hydroplant where Nielsen described in detail the operation of the state’s largest hydroelectric plant.

Earlier in the day, Ramsdale had taken the students to Central’s diversion dam near North Platte and driven past NPPD’s Lake Maloney and the North Platte Hydroplant.

For several of the students, it was their first visit to Lake McConaughy, and despite the calendar, the weather for a mid-November day couldn’t have been more pleasant.  Temperatures climbed into the 70s and only a gentle breeze barely causing ripples on the surface of the reservoir.

Central thanks the group for visiting and looks forward to future visits by Dr. Ramsdale’s students.

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NSIA/NWRA 2016 Annual Convention Summary; Sen. Carlson Named Recipient of Kremer Award

NSIA/NWRA 2016 Annual Convention Summary; Sen. Carlson Named Recipient of Kremer Award

“Forward … Building on the Past,” was the theme of the Nebraska State Irrigation Association and the Nebraska Water Resources Association annual joint convention held Nov. 21-22 in Kearney, Neb. The convention featured two days of presentations and discussions based on that theme.

The event’s first presentation covered the historic 1935 flood along the Republican River that caused untold damage and claimed more than 100 lives. The catastrophe led to the construction of a series of dams and reservoirs in the Republican River Basin to control the river flow to prevent future floods, for agriculture irrigation, and recreational uses.

Also on the agenda was a panel discussion with several recently retired individuals who shared their perspectives on long careers in the water resources field, experience gained, lessons learned, and advice for the future. On the panel were Glenn Johnson, former Lower Platte South NRD manager; John Turnbull, retired manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD; Gary Westphal, former manager of the Butler Public Power District; and Jim Goeke, formerly with the UNL Conservation and Survey Division.

Looking to the present and future, several presentations covered topics related to water management, integrated management planning, managing drought risk, the Platte River Cooperative Agreement, and expanded efforts by the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance.

CNPPID General Manager Don Kraus gave a presentation entitled, “Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Nebraska’s Largest Water Management Project.” Kraus’ presentation covered the events leading up to the formation of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, the construction of Kingsley Dam and the rest of Central’s hydro-irrigation project, and Central’s efforts to modernize its facilities, improve operational efficiency and conserve water resources over the decades.

After dinner on the evening of Nov. 21, Kraus presented the Groundwater Foundation’s Maurice Kremer Groundwater Achievement Award to former State Senator Tom Carlson.

Former State Senator Tom Carlson (second from right) received the Kremer Award at the NSIA/NWRA Annual Convention.  Shown with Sen. Carlson (left to right) are Jim Goeke, selection committee member; Groundwater Foundation Executive Director Jane Griffin; and Don Kraus, selection committee member.

Former State Senator Tom Carlson (second from right) received the Kremer Award at the NSIA/NWRA Annual Convention. Shown with Sen. Carlson (left to right) are Jim Goeke, selection committee member; Groundwater Foundation Executive Director Jane Griffin; and Don Kraus, selection committee member.

The Kremer Award is presented annually by Foundation to an outstanding Nebraskan who has made a substantive contribution to the conservation and protection of Nebraska’s groundwater. The Groundwater Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Lincoln with a mission to educate people and inspire action to ensure sustainable, clean groundwater for future generations.

“Senator Carlson’s work ethic and deep passion for our state’s most important natural resource, groundwater, is reflected in his accomplishments during his tenure as a State Senator,” said Groundwater Foundation President Jane Griffin. “Our state has benefited from Senator Carlson’s deep passion for our natural resources. On behalf of all of us at the Groundwater Foundation, I am honored to recognize him with the Kremer Award.”

Kraus, a member of the selection committee for the award, commented, “During his two terms in the Unicameral, Senator Carlson was a leading proponent and tireless advocate for legislation to improve the sustainability of Nebraska’s water resources.”

Senator Carlson actively sponsored and championed LB 1098, which established the Water Sustainability Fund in 2014 to guarantee a future for Nebraska’s stressed water resources. Through his efforts, almost $30 million dollars were accumulated to finance water sustainability research in Nebraska in 2015/2016 and will finance water sustainability research into the future. He also worked on legislation related to the Republican River Sustainability Task Force and the extension of funding for the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force.

Carlson was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 2006 from District 38. As a State Senator, he chaired the Agriculture Committee from 2009 through 2012 and the Natural Resources Committee in 2013 and 2014, and worked extensively on agriculture and water issues.

The award is named for State Senator Maurice Kremer, who spent 20 years in the Nebraska Legislature where he was best known for his contributions toward protecting the state’s water resources, earning him the nickname “Mr. Water.”

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Kingsley Hydro Inspection: Images from the Inside

Kingsley Hydro Inspection: Images from the Inside

The accompanying images reveal parts of the Kingsley Hydroplant that are seldom seen by anyone other than Central employees who perform regular inspections, maintenance and repairs at Nebraska’s largest hydropower plant.

Central’s engineers and maintenance crews take the plant off-line annually for regular inspection and maintenance of the facility’s mechanical and electrical components, but every five years the 19-feet-diameter penstock leading from the Control Tower in Lake McConaughy and the scroll case which routes the water through the turbine are de-watered for complete inspections.

Once the gates on the Outlet Tower and the huge guard valve within the hydroplant are closed, preventing water from Lake McConaughy from entering the plant, pumps removed water from the penstock so a two-man crew can paddle a small rubber boat up the penstock to the base of the Outlet Tower to perform the inspection. (In addition, Central personnel take a larger aluminum boat – with a motor — up the 28-feet-diameter penstock from the “Morning Glory” spillway to inspect the inside of that pipe.)

Being inside the huge scroll case, which is a spiral-shaped intake tube that routes water entering from the penstock through the wicket gates just above the turbine blades, is not a place for someone with claustrophobia. First, it’s pitch dark until portable lights are turned on to enable the inspection process. Second, one arrives (either immediately or eventually) at the realization that you are well below the bottom of Lake McConaughy and only several inches of steel separate you from almost 2 million acre-feet of water on the other side.

But for the men doing the inspections, it’s all in a day’s work.

 

The wicket gates that control the flow of water falling over the turbine blades. The gates move along a vertical axis.

The wicket gates that control the flow of water falling over the turbine blades. The gates move along a vertical axis.

View from below the turbine hub, with blades and closed wicket gates visible.

View from below the turbine hub, with blades and closed wicket gates visible.

Close-up view of one of the stainless steel turbine blades.

Close-up view of one of the stainless steel turbine blades.

The turbine hub with scaffolding erected to facilitate inspection and maintenance work.

The turbine hub with scaffolding erected to facilitate inspection and maintenance work.

The guard valve between the penstock and scroll case.  The valve is 19 feet in diameter.

The guard valve between the penstock and scroll case. Although it doesn’t appear very large in the photo, the valve is 19 feet in diameter.

 

 

2015-16 Water Year Ranks 7th for Inflows

2015-16 Water Year Ranks 7th for Inflows

So far it’s been a pretty good year … if you’re a Husker football fan or a fan of Lake McConaughy.

The Huskers recently re-entered the Top 10 rankings (according to the AP and Coaches polls) for the first time in several years and inflows into Lake McConaughy also cracked the top 10, finishing the water year (Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016) at number seven.

The (unofficial) total of 1,665,983 acre-feet (a-f) was 344,000 more than last year (2014-15) and 961,000 a-f behind the all-time inflow record of more than 2.6 million a-f set during the 2010-11 water year.

Still, this year’s mark was well above the historic median of 1,029,110 a-f and the historic average inflow of 916,900 a-f. That’s good news for the water supply in Nebraska.

If you just look at the last 30 years as a measuring stick, the recently ended water year was the second highest during that period.

Interestingly, since 2009-10 Lake McConaughy has experienced four of the 12 highest inflow years on record. Conversely, since 2000-01, we’ve seen the six LOWEST inflow totals ever, as well as the 8th and 9th lowest inflow years.

So if you’re looking for a trend, it might be along the lines of “feast or famine” over the past 16 years.

What to expect during the new water year? It appears that we’ll have to wait and see.

The good news might be that the La Niña weather pattern that was expected to follow the recently ended El Nino cycle has seemingly failed to materialize. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, La Nina cycles are typically characterized by below normal precipitation in the Central Rockies and the Great Plains. If it’s not a factor this year, winter and spring weather – and particularly snowfall and spring rainfall – are a coin flip, with equal chances of above or normal precipitation during the first part of 2017.

Yep, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

(Note:  The author is NOT a meteorologist, but does like to watch the weather forecasts on TV.)

Joel Hull: Forgotten Pioneer

Joel Hull: Forgotten Pioneer

Forgotten Pioneer

This year The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District is marking the 75th anniversary of the completion of Kingsley Dam in 1941. The stories about George P. Kingsley and C.W. McConaughy, two of the most prominent men in the creation of the hydro-irrigation project, have been well documented. However, the story of another pioneer who sought to bring hydropower and irrigation to south-central Nebraska, has been largely forgotten.

Joel Hull was educated in Ohio as a lawyer, served as an officer in General Crook’s brigade during the Civil War and then entered the tannery business after the war. However, he soon became intrigued by the promises of cheap land, plentiful resources and the opportunity to make a fortune in the new land being settled “out west.” Some may have called him a speculator or a “Boomer,” but it could certainly be said that he was ambitious.

He sold his tannery and moved to Nebraska in 1872. He settled first in Lowell in Kearney County, which then consisted of about six buildings and a handful of surrounding farms. He staked out a claim and started farming the virgin prairie, but he was never content as a farmer. He had bigger dreams.

One of his first efforts – along with others who shared his way of thinking — was to move the county seat from Lowell, through which the railroad ran, to a little town in the center of the county that consisted of little more of than a post office operated by an old German immigrant. The immigrant had named the place Minden after his old home town in Germany.

The people of the county approved the move of the county seat in 1876, although a court injunction delayed the official designation of Minden as the county seat until 1878. By then, a courthouse had been built, lots laid out, and a school and hotel were under construction. By 1880 there were 200 people living in Minden and 300 by 1882. The boom came in 1883 when the Burlington and Missouri Railroad laid tracks through the town and by the end of 1883, 1,200 people called Minden home.

Still Hull was not content. He and others who were encouraged by the rapid growth of their town had much bigger ambitions. In 1887 he proposed a canal to produce hydropower to turn the wheels of commerce and power Minden’s future. In 1889 he formed the Nebraska Canal and Improvement Company which had a charter befitting his ambitions. The company was to be involved in real estate, town-building, flour mills, steel mills, foundries, machine shops, grain businesses, rolling mills, city water works, wagons and carriages, and of course power plants to run the factories and businesses. Irrigation canals would serve the surrounding farms. The company would oversee the growth of a “Minneapolis on the Plains.”

Hull contracted with surveyors to plot the course of his power canal. They produced plans for a 54-mile-long canal from near the mouth of Plum Creek on the Platte River north of Bertrand to Sand Creek near Minden. The plans for the canal would have followed a very similar route chosen in the late 1930s for Central’s Phelps Canal. All he needed was $150,000 to build the canal.

But that’s as far as he got. No record of funds being raised or dirt being turned exists. Drought in the early 1890s was already forcing people out of the area as crops and businesses failed. When the Santa Fe Railroad abandoned plans to build a railroad through Minden to the Black Hills, his dream suffered another serious blow.

But Hull wasn’t ready to give up. He revived his plans on a smaller scale in 1894. His canal would still produce hydropower, but would have more of a focus on irrigation. But the years 1895 to 1898 were wet years that made people forget the need for irrigation. Even two more years of drought in 1899 and 1900 could not convince people of the need for irrigation.

However, between 1906 and 1915, average annual precipitation in the Kearney County area declined yearly. Hull died in 1914, and by then others had become convinced that the area could not prosper without a reliable supply of water to offset nature’s whims.

In 1913, C.W. McConaughy, mayor of Holdrege and a grain merchant was driving through the fields north of Holdrege on what was known as the Elm Creek road. He spotted a wheat field that had an odd look to it. In some areas the wheat grew tall with full heads of grain; in others, the wheat was stunted and with sparse heads.

Upon locating the owner of the field1, McConaughy learned that the field had been previously planted to corn. During harvest, the corn had been put up in shocks to dry. Subsequently, snow had collected around the shocks. When the snow melted, the water soaked into the ground. It was in these areas that the wheat grew best.

An idea was born, an idea that would eventually lead to the construction of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s hydro-irrigation project.

The rest, as they say, is history.

 

  1. The farmer was most likely O.T. Anderson, a supporter of the “Tri-County Project,” as it was then known, and later a member of CNPPID’s board of directors. He was identified in a March 21, 1938 article in the Holdrege Daily Citizen. In an interview with Moritz Aabel, who became a long-serving member of Central’s board, Mr. Aabel recalled mention by McConaughy of returning from a trip to Elm Creek during which he noticed the field. Such a route would have taken him past Anderson’s farm.

 

May Inflows to Lake McConaughy Ranked 5th Highest

May Inflows to Lake McConaughy Ranked 5th Highest

By now, everyone knows this spring was, well, on the wet side. While rainfall during May in Central’s irrigated area was only slightly above average (Central’s gauge in Holdrege collected about 2.3 inches, about 104 percent of normal), that followed an April during which more than nine inches of rain fell across most of the area and even higher localized totals were reported from some rain gauge sites.

But what happened in south-central Nebraska pales in comparison to what was (and is) occurring in the western part of the Platte River Basin.

The 2015-16 water year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30) started off in a fairly innocuous manner. Inflows to Lake McConaughy in October, November and December were very close to normal. The new year started with more of the same. The first four months brought inflows that ranged between 75,000 acre-feet and 79,000 acre-feet, again only slightly above historical median, or normal, inflows.

The pattern changed in May. Inflows to Lake McConaughy during April had lagged below normal until the last day of the month when they finally climbed to 1,876 cubic feet per second (cfs), about 350 cfs higher than normal. Over the next 31 days, the faucet was open all the way. The daily average inflow during that period was 6,394 cfs, far exceeding the normal daily average of 1,729 cfs. At May’s end, more than 393,000 acre-feet had flowed into Lake McConaughy, almost six times the amount (69,252 a-f) that normally arrives at the reservoir during the month, and certainly more than was projected. In fact, inflows during May were the fifth highest on record. (See table.)

Water YearInflow (acre-feet)
1.      1970-71451,524
2.      1983-84425,461
3.      2010-11420,804
4.      1972-73411,080
5.      2015-16393,132*
6.      1941-42340,031
7.      1982-83313,413
8.      1998-99235,133
9.      1979-80228,063
10.   1996-97197,200

(*Provisional)

May inflows peaked at 8,564 cfs on the last day of the month, then clicked up a notch to 8,716 cfs on the first day of June, which is the highest daily inflow since June 20, 2011 when the river gauge at Lewellen hit 9,000 cfs. So far this month, inflows have been steadily declining (inflows were at 6,750 cfs on the day this was written, still more than three times the normal rate, but declining nevertheless), which was actually welcome news as Lake McConaughy was nearing its maximum storage elevation.

As March began, snowpack in the upper and lower North Platte River basins and the South Platte was near normal. Inflows to Lake McConaughy, as stated above were at or slightly below normal. Reservoir storage in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s North Platte River reservoirs was also near normal for the time of year.

The picture looked pretty much the same when April arrived, nothing to get too excited about. Snowpack accumulation in the upper North Platte Basin was at 101 percent of normal; while the lower basin (which typically provides less runoff than the upper basin) was at 121 percent. Experts were expecting “good” runoff, but not quite the volume of water that would show up in the Platte Basin during May.

Heavy snow fell in the Rocky Mountains; at lower elevations and rainfall came in quantities that were well above normal. Conditions rapidly changed; what was setting up to be a “good” year for inflows suddenly turned to exceptional.

Water managers with the Bureau of Reclamation started releases from Glendo Reservoir in early May to make room for expected high inflows, but despite the early releases, storage behind Glendo Dam soon reached the flood pool level. Glendo is the only reservoir in the North Platte Basin with a designated flood pool, which can hold about 300,000 acre-feet. As June began, there was still about 200,000 a-f of flood pool space remaining and water being held in the reservoir helped reduce the high flows crossing into Nebraska.

In summary, late spring rains – which are typical, but not in the quantity that ended up falling — and the late beginning to the spring snowmelt in the mountains because of cooler than normal temperatures combined to produce the volume of water now in the rivers.

To complicate matters, snowmelt is also just beginning in the South Platte Basin. Flows in the South Platte recently had been running well above normal before falling off to near normal. However, a lot of snow remains to melt from the higher elevations and there is little room for storage in Colorado’s off-stream reservoirs.

While flows in the South Platte are currently well below flood stage, that might change, depending upon how fast the snow melts and how much precipitation falls in the valley over the next few weeks.

With temperatures on the rise, demand for irrigation water will soon increase up and down the Platte River Valley, which will take some of the water out of the river. But it’s probably safe to assume that there will be higher than normal flows in the Platte Basin for much of the summer.

E67 Telemetry Project Begins Second Year

E67 Telemetry Project Begins Second Year

Centralized Water Use Database for Irrigation Water Management in CNPPID
by Marcia Trompke, CNPPID Conservation Director


Site 4

     Producers taking water from Central’s E67 Pipeline Canal are involved in our newest precision management pilot project; funded in part by Nebraska lottery dollars through the Nebraska Environmental Trust, McCrometer Inc., Central and Nebraska Extension.  McCrometer’s Steve Grove (Hemet, CA) and Paul Tipling (Salina, KS), came to NE last week to help Central staff install equipment at 25 new field sites.  These sites, added to the 2015 installations, bring total sites in the project to 51.  In addition, a third McCrometer weather station was set up next to an existing UNL station to compare measured weather data and the results of the evapotranspiration calculations from each unit.

20150615_141111
Each project site using water from E67 has been fitted with a UHF radio/solar panel set and a digitizer added to the existing flowmeter.  Most sites have a digital rain gauge unless pivot water will hit it.  A gateway unit at the powerhouse near Johnson Lake calls each field station every hour and each weather station every 15 minutes to gather data and transmit it to a host computer at McCrometer.  Producers have access to this information from each of their fields and the weather stations immediately from a home computer, tablet or smartphone.  Data is graphed, tabled and archived for producers and all data is exportable to an Excel spreadsheet.

flow meter 6  The outcome of precision management is expected to be high yields with minimum use of irrigation water.  It is possible that an irrigation event can be saved at the beginning or end of the season or both once the producer has reliable information on hand to make those decisions.

 

***

Other info:

  • The E67 Canal headgate is on the outlet side of Johnson Lake and the canal provides irrigation water to 5,767 acres to the south.
  • In 2001 and 2002, the E67 earthen canals were upgraded to 18.2 miles of pipeline, 2.9 miles of membrane lined canal (bank to bank) and a 0.4 mile lateral was left open. The project saved 5,000 AF of seepage and evaporation losses annually; storable water that can enhance aquatic and shoreline habitat at Lake McConaughy.
  • The E67 Telemetry Project is an upgrade on the customer side of the meter; an effort to help customers raise the efficiency of crop water use.
  • By having reliable information on the soil water balance in every field, producers are able to determine daily which field(s) need an irrigation.
  • The ability to see the amount of rainfall measured at the weather stations in 15 minute intervals, allows producers to determine if they need to irrigate through a light rain or shut a pivot down.
  • Data is available 24/7 from anywhere in the world
  • Central will allow producer purchased add-ons to be integrated into this system. Pressure sensors, soil moisture sensors and pivot locators are some of the possibilities.
  • Central will be able to see individual and aggregated deliveries throughout the season and by 2017, should be able to integrate the meter data directly into the accounting software for billing.
  • 2017 will be Year 3 of this project when all remaining turnouts will be included in the Telemetry system.
  • NET is providing 3 years of funding, $194,100 total as a cost share grant
    • 1 (2015), $61,380
    • 2 (2016), $65,460
    • 3 (2017), $67,260
    • McCrometer, Inc., Central, NE Extension share of the total project is $ 226,540
  • NET grants are funded from the NE Lottery; that return dollars to local communities to help fund improvement projects from these categories;
    • Habitat
    • Surface and Ground Water
    • Waste Management
    • Air Quality
    • Soil Management

From the Archives: “This Day in History”

From the Archives:  “This Day in History”

Kingsley Dam was completed in 1941, so as we approach in 2016 the 75th anniversary of the dam and the beginning of project operations, we will be posting a list of historical highlights from the District’s past, sort of a “This Day in History” compilation. The entries will added according to when they occurred over the calendar year.

APRIL

April 11, 1941 — George Johnson, Central’s chief engineer and general manager, predicted that the Platte River would have a steady year-round flow within three years.  The construction of Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughy, which would store flows in the North Platte River for irrigation deliveries and hydroelectric generation, would eliminate the “no-flow” periods — particularly in the central Platte stretch — that were common before the dam was built.  (Subsequent history would prove Johnson largely correct.)  The canal system — including the Supply Canal and the irrigation canals — would eventually contribute underground return flows helped stabilize base flows in the river.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1, 1933 – The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District was officially organized after State Engineer Roy Cochran gave conditional approval to a reorganization of the District. The District’s creation had initially been approved by the Nebraska Department of Roads and Irrigation on July 24, 1933 as the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, although several hurdles remained to be cleared. Having made progress toward gaining approval and funding for the hydro-irrigation project, the new organization – officially called THE Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District – was created by the state engineer’s approval on Nov. 1.

Nov. 7, 1940 – Central’s board of directors signed a farm management contract with the University of Nebraska, placing what was called the Tri-County Farm Management Farm (which was used to demonstrate best management practices to farmers still learning about irrigated farming) under the supervision of the University’s Board of Regents.

November, 1940 — The two dredges pumping fill for Kingsley Dam — one upstream and one below the dam — completed the project that built (at the time, behind Ft. Peck Dam on the Missouri River in Montana) the second largest hydraulic-fill dam in the world.  Approximately 25.5 million cubic yards of sand and gravel were pumped during the process.  Following completion of dredging activities, workers plugged the huge tube that carries water from the North Platte River beneath the dam (now connected to the Morning Glory Spillway) and water began passing through the Control Tower.  The process of filling the reservoir was expected to begin in the spring of 1941.

November, 1965 – Central crews, under the supervision of Kingsley Dam Division Manager Bernard Donelan, finished what was originally planned to be a three-year project of placing 800-lbs. tetrahedrons on the face of Kingsley Dam. The 16,360 “tets” were placed in a matter of months because the growing season proved to be wet, resulting in low demand for water from Lake McConaughy and freeing up members of the crew to work on the dam instead of their normal irrigation-related duties. A private contractor poured the concrete jackstones at a site near the dam and subsequently manufactured several thousand more to stockpile near the dam. The jackstones were designed to protect the dam’s face by breaking wave action against the dam.

November 2004 – Maps prepared from data accumulated by the UNL Conservation and Survey Division revealed, “Significant and persistent declines in some areas of the state (that) have only become more obvious in the last few years due mainly to current drought conditions and resulting increases in groundwater pumping.” The UNL Water Center noted a spike in well drilling that occurred after passage in the spring of LB962 (a law intended to prevent conflicts between groundwater and surface water users) that spurred a rush to drill additional wells before a moratorium on new wells in some areas went into effect. According to UNL hydrogeologist Jim Goeke, “The increase in pumping and diminished recharge to the aquifer due to drought disrupts groundwater flow to streams, delaying or diminishing the flow of surface water in many basins.”

November 2009 – After 25 years and generation of almost 2 million megawatt-hours of electricity, the Kingsley Hydroplant finally required significant repairs and maintenance. Central crews began complete disassembly of the turbine-generator unit prior to repair of bushings in the turbine hub, cavitation repair on the turbine blades, refurbishment of wicket gates and oil seal improvements. The $4 million project was completed by March 2010.

OCTOBER

Oct. 10, 1955 – Central’s board of directors and management announced plans to build a 100-megwatt power plant to be fueled by natural gas. The plant, which went on-line in 1958, was constructed adjacent to the Supply Canal southeast of Lexington, was named the Canaday Steam Plant after Ralph O. Canaday, who served as the District’s legal counsel during the formative years of efforts to bring an irrigation project to south-central Nebraska and later served as Central’s chief legal counsel and general manager.

Oct. 17, 1956 – During a drought in the mid-1950s, Lake McConaughy dropped to its lowest elevation on record since the reservoir’s initial fill. The lake’s elevation on this date was 3,198.2, with a volume of 348,900 acre-feet. At the time, the reservoir’s maximum capacity exceeded 1.9 million acre-feet, so the amount of water behind Kingsley Dam represented only 18.4 percent of capacity. The low-water mark would stand until September 2004 when the lake fell to an elevation of 3,197.6 feet during another extended drought. At that time, Lake McConaughy contained 341,400 acre-feet, or 19.6 percent of its current maximum capacity of 1,743,000 acre-feet. The reservoir’s maximum capacity was lowered in the early 1970s after a 1972 windstorm damaged the protective face of the dam.

Oct. 19, 1964 – A project began to replace an original – and somewhat iconic – structure along Central’s Supply Canal. The “High Bridge,” located on a county road over the canal south of Cozad was 219 feet long and stood 74 feet above the canal’s water surface was originally constructed in 1938 and was the highest bridge in the District. Age and wear-and-tear took its toll on the wooden bridge and it was replaced by a new bridge that stands 33 feet above the canal.

bridge-construction

The original “high bridge” under construction over the Supply Canal south of Cozad.

high_bridge_replacement

The replacement bridge under construction in 1964.

Oct. 26, 1990 – More than 800 people attended a “scoping hearing” at the Ogallala City Auditorium conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in connection with the relicensing of Central’s (and the Nebraska Public Power District’s) hydroelectric project. More than 35 people testified during the five-hour meeting, almost all in favor of issuance of a new license with conditions that would not hinder provision of the many benefits from the project.

Oct. 27, 1997 – Central construction crews began an earthwork project to raise the head above a siphon on the E-65 Canal and to install more than 2,000 feet of synthetic membrane. The earthwork would provide six more feet of elevation above the siphon to increase the volume of water passing through the mile-long pipe. The membrane lining significantly reduces conveyance losses and prevents bank erosion along the E-65 Canal between the head gate near the Johnson Lake inlet and the siphon.

October 2001 – Central started a major rehabilitation project on its three Supply Canal hydropower plants. The project involved replacing the original turbines, rewinding all five generators and installing a new transformer in the J-2 hydroplant switchyard.

 

University of Nebraska Kearney Students Visit J-2 Eagle-Viewing

University of Nebraska Kearney Students Visit J-2 Eagle-Viewing

Midway Point in the J2 Eagle Viewing Season

Post by Mark Peyton – CNPPID Senior Biologist

February 1st marks the mid-point in the eagle viewing season at Central’s J2 Power plant located south-east of Lexington.   So far this has been an excellent season with both consistent numbers of eagles and quite a few visitors.

To date over 1,000 people have signed the registration book averaging over 45/day.   They have been treated to about 25 eagles that are actively fishing, flying, and interacting with each other.   The viewing center is open through February on Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM.

Shown here is Dr. Letitia Reichart’s Ornithology Class from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

unk1 unk2

2014-15 Water Year Inflows Exceeded “Normal”

2014-15 Water Year Inflows Exceeded “Normal”

In the wild and wacky world of water, a review of data from the 2014-15 water year (which ended Sept. 30), is an interesting – if not particularly enlightening — exercise, as I’ll demonstrate below. It’s difficult to know what, if any, conclusions can be drawn.

The 2014-15 water year ended up as the 11th highest in terms of inflows to Lake McConaughy (see table below), which means it ranked above “normal.”

“Normal” inflows, depending upon how you choose to look at them, are either understood to be the “average,” (or “mean”), which is a number that is calculated by adding quantities together and then dividing the total by the number of those quantities; or the “median,” which is defined as “the value in the center of the distribution for an array of data.”

One problem with using the average to define “normal” is that the values can be skewed by very high or very low data.  Those impacts, of course, are lessened as the data set grows larger.

So perhaps we should use median annual inflows, which produces a number right in the middle of the data set, as an indicator of “normal.”

But is that really “normal?” What, indeed, is “normal?”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of normal is “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; regular; natural.”

Hmm. Not sure that’s helpful, particularly given the unpredictability of Nebraska’s weather and water supplies in the Platte River watershed.

Perhaps the second definition in the dictionary would be more appropriate: “Serving to establish a standard.” That might be more helpful as we seek conditions that conform to expectations.

For the sake of comparison, the historical median annual inflow into Lake McConaughy through the recently ended water year is 913,234 acre-feet. But the average annual inflow over that period is 1,020,504 acre-feet, which is a difference of 107,270 acre-feet, or almost 12 percent. For perspective, that’s like getting another October’s worth of inflows during a year, and October is historically the month when inflows, on average, are the highest.

But let’s take a look at another set of numbers, just for fun, of course. We’ve mentioned that the historic median annual inflow is 913,234 acre-feet. That’s over a period of 74 years. If we look at the median inflow over shorter periods of time, we find the following: The 30-year median – back to the 1985-86 water year – is only 758,071 acre-feet; the 10-year median is even lower at 723,595 acre-feet, but the 5-year median – bolstered by a couple of good water years and offset by a couple of below normal (there’s that word again) years – is 819,673 acre-feet, although still significantly less than the historic median. Does that mean that “normal” is a moving target, that it changes with time and circumstances? How can something so transient be referred to as “normal?”  Can “normal” change?  (Well, obviously.  It’s no longer considered “normal” to wear “disco” outfits, but that’s another story.)

So again we have to ask, “What is normal?” One of my favorite answers to this question, which I find fitting given weather on the Great Plains, is that normal is somewhere in the middle of two extremes. If that’s the case, then the only years when inflows to Lake McConaughy ended up in the “normal” range were 1957-58 when inflows were 916,900 acre-feet, or perhaps 1977-78 when inflows were 909,567 acre-feet.

After all that, it appears that we’ve only had two years of “normal” inflows in the last 74 years!

So when looking at inflows to Lake McConaughy, I guess you could use the saying from the movie “Forrest Gump,” when the title character’s mother advised him: “Life is (substitute “Inflows are…”) like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.”

Top Twenty Water Years
Water YearAcre-Feet Inflow
1 . 2010-112,627,556
2. 1983-842,603,167
3. 1982-832,358,867
4. 1972-732,218,404
5. 1970-712,052,372
6. 1973-741,693,349
7. 1985-861,658,226
8. 1998-991,477,213
9. 1996-971,460,295
10. 2009-101,453,595
11. 2014-151,321,203
12. 1946-471,244,041
13. 1951-521,243,043
14. 1944-451,218,007
15. 1941-421,215,860
16. 1971-721,214,752
17. 1986-871,210,589
18. 1979-801,177,316
19. 1950-511,170,919
20. 1947-481,159,208

 

The “Bottom Ten”
Water YearAcre-Feet Inflow
10. 1960-61624,960
9. 2007-08609,533
8. 2012-13601,230
7. 1955-56597,654
6. 2004-05548,569
5. 2001-02544,574
4. 2005-06494,155
3. 2006-07477,645
2. 2002-03455,731
1. 2003-04440,900

(Note that nearly all of the inflow years that populate the “Bottom 10” occurred recently, during the first decade of the 21st century.)

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