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Help Prevent an Invasion: Clean, Drain and Dry to Keep Invasive Aquatic Species Out of Nebraska Waters

Help Prevent an Invasion:  Clean, Drain and Dry to Keep Invasive Aquatic Species Out of Nebraska Waters

A small aquatic species, not much bigger than your thumbnail, poses a threat to Nebraska’s lakes, reservoirs and associated power-generating facilities.  Once established, the critters are extremely difficult and expensive to remove.

The creature is the zebra mussels (and their relative, the quagga mussel).  But Nebraska is not without defenses.  As the Memorial Day weekend — and the summer recreation season — approaches, boaters and recreation-seekers can help by simply cleaning, draining and drying a boat, trailer and related equipment to help prevent the invasion.

The zebra mussel has caused enormous problems in other parts of the country and has been detected in Nebraska in a lake at Offutt Air Force Base and on a dock on the South Dakota side of Lewis & Clark Lake.  Evidence of zebra mussels was also discovered on a boat and trailer at Harlan County Lake, although the specimens had died before the boat entered the water.  Whether it spreads to other lakes and rivers depends to a large degree on the public’s vigilance.  The mussels are one of many invasive species found in various lakes and rivers that can cause damage to boat motors and clog cooling water intakes at power plants.

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Pipes clogged by accumulation of quagga mussels.

The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District uses water to generate electricity at the Kingsley Hydroplant at Lake McConaughy and also at three hydroplants along the Supply Canal between North Platte and Lexington.  In addition, the Nebraska Public Power District uses water from Lake McConaughy to cool equipment at Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland, and to produce power at the North Platte Hydroelectric Plant.  Preventing aquatic invasive species from fouling intake pipes and other equipment is important to continuing Nebraska’s ability to provide low cost, reliable electricity.

“We’ve seen the devastation that zebra mussels have done to water bodies in other states,” said Central Senior Biologist Mark Peyton.  “They dramatically change the fishery and natural balance of the lake or river.  What’s more, when they are in a system like the Platte River, it would be next to impossible to prevent them from infesting all the other water bodies associated with that system.

“Once a body of water is contaminated, monetary resources that could be used to improve and enhance recreational opportunities and wildlife value at the lakes are used instead to clean up and contain the mussels.  All in all, the mussels simply are not good for the system or for the people using the system.  We hope that people who use the lakes in Nebraska don’t become complacent about the threat because it’s out there, it’s real.”

A freshwater mollusk native to eastern Europe and western Asia, the zebra mussel — so named for its striped shell — was first detected in North America in 1988 in Lake St. Clair, a small lake between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.  The first specimens probably arrived in the ballast water of ships that sailed from a freshwater port in Europe.  It has since spread throughout the Great lakes region and to river systems in the Midwest, including the Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas, and Mississippi rivers.

How can such a small mollusk create such problems?  First, they reproduce prolifically.  A single female, which has a life span of up to five years, can lay more than a million eggs during a single spawning season.  Second, the mussels anchor themselves to hard surfaces in huge numbers.

Water intake pipes at factories, water treatment plants, and power plants have been clogged by the buildup of mussels, requiring difficult and expensive removal.  Beyond industry, zebra mussels can infest boat hulls and motors, docks, lifts and any other structure in the water.  The shells of dead mussels can accumulate in great quantities on swimming beaches, the sharp edges posing a threat to swimmers’ feet.

In addition, because they feed by filtering algae and plankton from the water, they can disrupt the food chain at its base.

A relative of the zebra mussel, the quagga mussel, has been discovered at Julesburg Reservoir in the South Platte Basin, less than 50 miles from Lake McConaughy.  The quagga poses the same threat to industry and recreation as the zebra mussel and has been found in many western lakes.  Nationwide, the economic impact of the mussels comes to billions of dollars.

Karie Decker, formerly the coordinator for the Nebraska Invasive Species Project and now an assistant division administrator for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Wildlife Division, said, “Everyone who uses our lakes for any reason, be it recreation, irrigation, or power production, has a stake in preventing the spread of these species.  Quite literally, they can ruin a lake.”

She said there would be no way to eradicate the mussels if they gained a foothold in Lake McConaughy.

“We could only hope to contain them and even that would be expensive for Nebraska,” she said.

At the root of the state’s effort to educate the public about the threat posed by the mussels is the slogan, “CLEAN. DRAIN. DRY.”  Lake visitors are urged to clean, drain and dry any watercraft and recreational equipment before putting them into the water.

“Inadvertent human transport is the main pathway for introducing the mussels to other lakes,” Decker said.  “We want to make sure people aren’t transporting water that may contain larvae from one lake to another in boats, live wells, bait buckets, waders, or even vegetation attached to boat trailers.”

Decker said it doesn’t take long to inspect boats.  The more difficult task, she said, is simply making people aware of the need to do so and getting them to follow through with regular inspections.

The public is the only line of defense and Nebraska needs help to repel the invader.  For more information about the invasive mussels, visit the Nebraska Invasive Species Project’s web site at http://snr.unl.edu/invasives.

South Platte Flows on the Rise

South Platte Flows on the Rise

Precipitation in recent days in Colorado’s South Platte River watershed has raised flows in the South Platte River entering Nebraska.  The South Platte River is expected to experience increased flows in Nebraska through next week, and may cause some flooding problems in some areas.  (See charts below from the National Weather Service.)

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In anticipation of flows in the Platte River being above target flows set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Central’s board of directors met in a special board meeting on Fri., May 8 and approved (subject to legal review and approval by the other parties) agreements to divert excess river flows into the E65 Canal and Elwood Reservoir for groundwater recharge purposes and to augment instream flows.

The agreements are part of efforts by Central, Tri-Basin Natural Resources District, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Community Foundation, and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program to utilize excess flows for beneficial purposes.

Pumping Water into Elwood Reservoir

Pumping Water into Elwood Reservoir

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The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District is in the process of partially filling Elwood Reservoir in preparation for the 2015 irrigation season.

With irrigation customers limited to 12 inches/acre over the coming irrigation season, a completely full Elwood Reservoir will not be necessary.  Instead, Central will divert 15,000 acre-feet of water into Elwood, raising the reservoir’s elevation to about 2,602 feet by the end of May.  The normal maximum elevation is 2,607 feet.

By limiting the amount of water pumped into the reservoir, Central will be able to conserve thousands of acre-feet in Lake McConaughy.  Central’s storage rights require that water pumped into Elwood Reservoir for irrigation purposes must be a transfer of storage water from Lake McConaughy.

To accomplish the fill schedule, Central plans to operate two of the three pumps at the Carl T. Curtis Pump Station in April, and then use one pump during May to reach the intended level.  The pumping process will raise the reservoir’s elevation by 14 feet between April 1 and the end of May.

In addition to providing water for irrigation customers, inflows into the reservoir will benefit the fishery at the lake, as well as providing some incidental groundwater recharge benefits.  Central, in cooperation with Tri-Basin NRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, had diverted 15,000 acre-feet into the reservoir for groundwater recharge last year – water that was in excess of target flows and other uses in the Platte River – and then added another 15,000 acre-feet for recharge purposes in December and January.  Water that is pumped into the reservoir is allowed to seep into the ground, thereby helping the area’s groundwater level, as well as augmenting base flows in the Platte River as the water eventually moves underground back to the river.

Central Hosts Stakeholder Meetings

Central Hosts Stakeholder Meetings

By Jim Brown, CNPPID Land Administrator

NGPC's Colby Johnson addresses attendees at the Ogallala Stakeholder Meeting.

NGPC’s Colby Johnson addresses attendees at the Ogallala Stakeholder Meeting.

Stakeholder meetings were held recently to present modifications to permitting processes and regulations that are being contemplated by Central. This is the first year for these meetings, which were held at Gothenburg, Ogallala, and Lexington. The purpose is to allow stakeholders (cabin-owners and members of the public who use District lakes) the opportunity to provide feedback on current issues, to meet Central staff, and to be part of the process of improving the program.

Presentations about Central’s operations and permitting were made by Central staff members at all meetings and staff from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission gave a presentation about park improvements at Lake McConaughy park improvements during the Ogallala meeting. Contact information for appropriate personnel was provided at all three meetings and attendees were invited to share constructive opinions and improvements to the program with an emphasis in areas of safety, environmental impacts, and neighbor relations as they relate to the permitting program. Central staff will consider all suggestions and weigh them against mandatory requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license, the Land and Shoreline Management Plan, and any other local, state, or federal regulations and potentially incorporate suggestion that meet the requirements.

Central will continue to accept comments and suggestions until early May, at which point the comments will be reviewed with the goal of submitting the update to the District’s permitting procedures as soon as possible. If you would like to provide a suggestion for improvement, send an email to jbrown@cnppid.com.

 

Gifts of the heart

Gifts of the heart

The following story was originally printed in the Gothenburg Times.

 

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DEPENDABLE DONORS: There are 16 employees at the Gothenburg office of Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District that regularly donate blood to the American Red Cross. CNPP&ID allows employees to take an hour leave to give when the Bloodmobile comes to town. Givers include, l-r: Front—Jake Sitorius, Matt Ostergard, Mike Koubek, Jeramy Hendricks, Doug Viter; Back—Tom Holm, Blake Munster, Dustin Ehlers, Scott Peterson, Ethan Lambert, Scott Wolf, Lonnie Warner and Mark Peyton. Not pictured: Jon Herrick, Logan Ricley and Randy Walker.

 

CNPP&ID employees donate blood freely, regularly

Because blood is pumped throughout the body from the heart, the donation of blood to someone in need can be likened to giving a gift from the heart.

American Red Cross officials describe the giving of blood as a gift of life.

Sixteen employees of Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District see it that way too.

Since each of them started giving blood, they have collectively donated 838 pints of blood when the Bloodmobile stops in Gothenburg.

With about 60 people giving blood four times yearly, CNPP&ID contributions make up a fourth of the givers, said senior biologist Mark Peyton.

Amanda Koubek, American Red Cross account manager, said an organization like Central that allows its employees to donate during work time is monumental to the success of the Gothenburg Community Blood Drive.

“The patients that need life-saving blood products are grateful for their selfless donations over the years,” Koubek said.

Doug Viter was 22 when he first gave blood. At the time, he was working at Central on a bridge crew.

When he first started the job in 1966, other members of the bridge crew, like Lloyd Streeter, Elmer Dyer, Aaron Olson and Louis Trimble, encouraged Viter to give.

He took their advice, donating blood for the first time in the former Gothenburg Times office which was where the present-day Sander Furniture and Gifts is located.

“I felt good about giving blood,” said Viter who is now 70 years old. “Anytime you can help someone, especially since there’s a blood shortage.”

Since Viter started giving, the canal superintendent has donated 123 pints of blood and is the longest-giving employee at Central’s Gothenburg office.

Peyton noted that Viter strives to be the first donor, showing up at the Bloodmobile 20 minutes early.

Viter added that after giving blood, he eats “the best” soup, sandwiches and cookies and visits with other donors.

Lonnie Warner, who started out working on the bridge crew with Viter, is now a heavy equipment operator at Central. He first gave blood in 1977.

Warner was a senior at Gothenburg High School when the Bloodmobile came to the school and set up their equipment in a hallway.

The next year, he began working at Central and to date, has donated 140 pints.

“My dad, Ben Warner, used to give blood and he was an example for me,” the general maintenance worker said. “It’s something now that I’ve always done.”

Donating blood helps other people.

“Everyone should do it if he or she is able,” Warner said. “You never know when you’re going to need blood for yourself or for a family member.”

Warner missed a year of giving when he broke his leg but has given consistently before and after the accident.

He added that he encourages the employees who work with him to donate blood.

“I think it’s awesome that so many guys from Central do it,” Warner said.

Central employees had the experience of helping a colleague 38 years ago when Leonard France had a bleeding ulcer.

France, who was an electrical supervisor, now works part-time for district.

When France needed 76 units of blood in 1977, Peyton said France was told he could pay for it or replace what he took.

Central employees district wide took it upon themselves to give blood for their co-worker and donated five more pints than what France needed.

Central’s newest employee, Dustin Ehlers, has given blood (four pints to date) for about a year.

Last April, Ehlers said he was encouraged by Warner and told that giving blood helps others.

“Before then, it was never brought up,” he said. “It would be cool to see just who it helps.”

ebarrett@gothenburgtimes.com

308-537-3636

E-65 Canal Groundwater Recharge Project

E-65 Canal Groundwater Recharge Project

Above normal flows in the South Platte River this fall has allowed Central to partner with Tri-Basin Natural Resource District and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to divert excess flows into the E-65 canal system and Elwood Reservoir for groundwater recharge. Agreements allow a total of 10,000 acre-feet of water total to be diverted into Central’s system of canals and lakes, allowing for Tri-Basin and the State of Nebraska to get credit for recharge in the Republican and Platte River basins. Diversions began on December 10, 2014, and so far approximately 6,500 a-f of water has been diverted. Elwood reservoir has risen five feet in elevation due to this project.

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This photo shows icy water held in the E-65 canal system from miles 19.3 to 20.1, allowing for groundwater recharge from Johnson Lake to the area shown above near Smithfield.

 

Perch Pole Installed for Bald Eagles at J-2 Power Plant

Perch Pole Installed for Bald Eagles at J-2 Power Plant

Colder weather has Central’s staff working towards preparing for winter activities. One of the most popular winter activities at Central is the eagle-viewing season. Central opens two eagle-viewing centers – one at the J-2 Powerhouse near Lexington, Neb., and one on the shores of Lake Ogallala – where viewing is available in a heated setting, and open to the public each weekend from late December through early March.

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For many years the J-2 Powerhouse has seen its share of eagles that enjoy the quiet atmosphere and open water for a supply of food. A favorite resting place for the eagles has been a dead tree on the west side of the canal not far from the powerhouse building. Over the summer, this “favorite” tree fell, and Central employees felt it needed a replacement.

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The new perch pole seen above was constructed by Gothenburg employees and set up near where the old tree stood in hopes that the eagles may use it in a similar fashion.

For more information on eagle-viewing opportunities, visit our Eagle-Viewing web page.

Johnson Lake Drawdown Allows for Clean Up

Johnson Lake Drawdown Allows for Clean Up

Central decided to take advantage of the low water levels at Johnson Lake and do some shoreline maintenance work. As the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission worked to complete their Angler Access Project near the inlet at Johnson Lake, the water levels remained around eight feet lower than normal through most of October. This drawdown allowed cabin owners to clean up shoreline areas and also allowed Central to do some shoreline work.

Kent Aden uses his personal utility vehicle to spray an aquatic herbicide on the shoreline at Johnson Lake.

Kent Aden uses his personal utility vehicle to spray an aquatic herbicide on the shoreline at Johnson Lake.

Kent Aden is shown here testing a new aquatic herbicide in attempt to control the sago pondweed, which has been a concern for many lake residents. According to the USDA website, the sago pondweed plant is beneficial for wildlife and erosion control, but can become overgrown, and should be controlled in lakes commonly used for recreation and irrigation¹.

1. Sago Pondweed Fact Sheet. Retrieved from: http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_stpe15.pdf.

 

Curtis Technical Agriculture School Students Experience Central’s Project

Curtis Technical Agriculture School Students Experience Central’s Project

Students from the University of Nebraska Technical Agriculture School in Curtis enjoyed a “mini-tour” of parts of Central’s hydro-irrigation project on a recent October day.

Eleven NCTA students, shepherded by Assistant Professor of Agronomy Brad Ramsdale and Dick Neel, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation’s regional director of membership, who facilitated the tour, met Central personnel at the Lake McConaughy Visitors Center after spending a few hours touring sites in the Republican River Basin.

After going through the Water Interpretive Center and viewing a video about the many benefits from water in the Platte River Basin, the group went out on Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughy’s control structures. Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen then explained the workings of the Kingsley Hydroplant – where several of the students seemed to take a particular interest in the plant’s “socket and wrench set” – before stopping at Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton for lunch courtesy of Central.

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Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen (center) explains the operation of the Kingsley Hydroplant on the generator floor.

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One of the NCTA students hoists a wrench used for maintenance tasks at Kingsley Hydroplant.

Then it was off to the Gothenburg Control Center, where Electrical Superintendent Devin Brundage explained Central’s highly automated system for monitoring and controlling water all the way through its hydro-irrigation project. The students then participated in a discussion about the history and impact of the federal Endangered Species Act before heading back to campus and (presumably) their homework.

According to Dick Neel, the tour was an opportunity for the students to “gain an understanding of how the water system of Nebraska works, as well as why it works.”