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.)

Elwood High School Science Club Tours Project

Elwood High School Science Club Tours Project

As the public relations coordinator for The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, I’ve led countless tours of the District’s hydro-irrigation project over the past 25 years. But unless my memory fails me – always a distinct possibility – I’ve never had the pleasure of hosting a group of high school students on a two-day tour.

That was the case on Oct. 6 and 7 when students from the Elwood High School science club participated in a tour. It was wonderful to have a group of kids who are so obviously invested in and serious about learning.

The Elwood Science Club is one of only three such clubs in Nebraska to gain certification by the American Chemistry Society. The club’s mission to motivate and encourage high school students to explore the many ways that chemistry is used in their everyday lives. It also provides hands-on opportunities for members to experience science beyond what is taught in the classroom; learn about career opportunities in the many and varied fields of science; provide service for the betterment of their community; and develop leadership and communication skills.

Look_under_water

Members of the science club get an “under water” look at the fish and wildlife display in the Water Interpretive Center.

Led by science teacher Chelsey Neville, the students were enthusiastic about the tour and eager to learn more about water, hydroelectric power, wildlife and agriculture in Nebraska.

The first stop on the tour was at Elwood Reservoir, a site very familiar to most of the students because of its proximity to their home town. The group then traveled to a site along the E67 Canal to learn about the new telemetry project and automated weather stations that provide real-time data on-line to irrigation customers to improve water management.

Mark_Peyton_and_bullsnake

Biologist Mark Peyton competed with a big snake and a little puppy for the students’ attention.

The next stop was the Jeffrey Island wildlife management area where Senior Biologist Mark Peyton met the group. Peyton explained how the 3,000-acre tract of land in the middle of two channels of the Platte River is managed by Central as wildlife habitat. In addition to habitat work to benefit shorebirds, cranes, migratory song birds, reptiles and insects have been studied on the island, as have methods for controlling unwanted vegetation.

Peyton, perhaps mistakenly, brought a companion to the island: his nine-month-old Labrador puppy. In the competition for the students’ attention, Peyton probably came in second to the cute, bouncing bundle of energy named Luna, although he probably salvaged the day by pulling a four-foot-long bull snake out of a bag and allowing some of the more intrepid students to handle the reptile.

Chelsey_student_and_bullsnake_Jeffrey_Island

Teacher Chelsey Neville seems a little less enthused about the snake than one of her students.

Following a stop at the Johnson Lake inlet and E65 Canal head gate, the group enjoyed lunch in Gothenburg’s Country Barn & Grill and then visited the Gothenburg Control Center. Electrical Superintendent Devin Brundage discussed Central’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, explaining how technology has increased the efficiency of District hydropower and irrigation operations. He also complimented the students for their interest in science and encouraged them to pursue additional education and careers in fields related to science.

The next stop was Central’s diversion dam on the Platte River just east of the city of North Platte, followed by a visit to the Jeffrey Hydroplant where their tour guide was urged to save an unidentified species of snake (what is it with snakes showing up over and over?) from a watery grave in the hydroplant’s tailrace. The group then enjoyed an excellent catered dinner provided by the BBQ Company and John and Jenice Jordening of Lexington.

The group asked about rumors that Jeffrey Lodge was haunted by some long-dead and unknown spirit or spirits. Unfortunately, I could not confirm those rumors, which actually seem to have disappointed some of the students. I’ve stayed overnight at the lodge dozens of times and have never seen, heard, or felt anything out of the ordinary. But then again, I was apparently unable to dispel the rumors either. One of the boys claimed that he saw “a head or something” outside his bedroom window before turning in for the night. It was enough to make him sleep with some lights on.

See the “spectral image” in the upstairs window?*

Jeffrey_Lodge

* It’s (probably) a reflection from the ceiling lights in the dining room.

Big_wrench

Ready to go to work at Kingsley Hydro.

On the next morning, after a quick breakfast, the group traveled to the Lake McConaughy Visitors and Water Interpretive Center where Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen educated the students about operation of the dam and hydroplant. The walk out onto the reservoir’s huge control structures was a hit with the kids and the trip up and down several flights of stairs at the hydroplant did little to diminish their energy, apparently only whetting their appetites for lunch at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Grill. Then it was back on the bus and back to Elwood High School where, as Mrs. Neville informed them, a quiz related to information learned over the past two days would await them in the near future.

Elwood_HS_Morning_Glory

Members of the class look down into the “Morning Glory” spillway.

That announcement drew a few groans, but I’ll be surprised if the students didn’t all “ace” the quiz.

Construction Underway on Pedestrian Bridge over Hike/Bike Trail

Construction Underway on Pedestrian Bridge over Hike/Bike Trail

A Central crew began construction of the pedestrian bridge over the Johnson Lake outlet canal in early October. The last pilings were driven on Oct. 12, setting the stage for construction of the supporting infrastructure and deck.

When completed, the bridge adjacent to the existing road bridge will afford safe crossing of the outlet by users of the lake’s hike/bike trail. The 10-feet-wide bridge will be constructed of wood and rest on steel pilings.

Central used a 30-ton crane equipped with a pile-driver that was positioned on the existing road bridge. Using the existing bridge as a “base” for construction will save on the cost of the bridge. The bridge is scheduled to be completed before Thanksgiving.

Central personnel finish driving the last steel piling for the pedestrian bridge.

Central personnel finish driving the last steel piling for the pedestrian bridge.

June Inflows Boost Lake McConaughy

June Inflows Boost Lake McConaughy

When June came to a close, inflows to Lake McConaughy during the month had entered the records books as the fifth highest since storage began at the reservoir in 1941.

Inflows totaled 335,138 acre-feet (a-f) for the month. The five highest inflow totals for June:

YearInflow (acre-feet)
1984505,376
2011471,436
1973439,643
1983438,691
2015335,138

Wet Junes are not unprecedented, nor particularly unusual. Historically, peak inflows typically occur in October – following the end of irrigation season – and June, often because of spring precipitation and snowmelt runoff.

However, this June’s inflows were more than four times the historical median of 74,924 a-f and were somewhat unexpected. Inflows to Lake McConaughy in March were only 85 percent of the historical median of 75,959 a-f, and April’s inflows were 82 percent of “normal.” Projections, upstream storage conditions, and weather patterns did not indicate the likelihood of much of an uptick in inflows, but frequent and sometimes heavy precipitation in May altered the trend. Inflows during May surged to 163,429 a-f, almost two-and-a-half times more than the historical median, and well-above average inflows continued throughout the month of June.

Lake_McConaughy_July1-2015(a)

Lake McConaughy at elevation 3263.3 feet on July 1, 2015

The much needed inflows raised Lake McConaughy’s storage level to elevation 3,263.1 feet on June 30, less than two feet from the maximum operating level that was established in 1974. The maximum level was put in place after high winds during a 1972 storm caused significant wave damage to the face of Kingsley Dam. The storm occurred when the reservoir’s elevation was above 3,266 feet; maximum designed elevation at the time was 3,270 feet.

Just in case, Central recently sought and received a waiver from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to exceed the 3,265.0 elevation by up to two feet if necessary to hold back North Platte River water and prevent it from contributing to flooding conditions in stretches of the central Platte River being caused by high flows in the South Platte River.

July arrived with the typical hot, dry conditions (although it was raining again as this post was being written), and flows in both the North Platte and South Platte rivers are beginning to recede. Irrigation demand is also picking up slightly, although growers will monitor soil moisture conditions before irrigating. Abundant soil moisture often inhibit good root development, simply because crops’ roots don’t have to go far to find water.

As the rivers and inflows begin to recede, it now appears unlikely that Central will need to exceed its normal maximum elevation. What does appear likely is that Lake McConaughy will be in excellent shape in terms of next year’s water supply.

Flood Warning Issued for North Platte River above McConaughy

Flood Warning Issued for North Platte River above McConaughy

The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for the middle of this week along the North Platte River above Lake McConaughy.

Citing “heavy and prolonged rainfall” in the watershed the river drains in Wyoming, the warning indicates that flows in the river could reach 5,000 to 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Tuesday and above 8,000 cfs by Thursday in stretches of the river near Mitchell, Neb. Water is being released from Glendo Reservoir in Wyoming as it nears the flood pool. On Tuesday, the reservoir was at about 98 percent capacity.

If the high flows materialize, the North Platte River above Lake McConaughy could reach a flood stage as high as 10.2 feet near Mitchell (flood stages vary at different locations due to channel width, depth and other factors), which would be near record highs.

At the Lewellen gauge, which is just above Lake McConaughy, the river is projected to rise to a flood state of 8.5 feet by Saturday, which according to NWS data, would represent moderate flooding at and near the gauge site. Estimates of flow rates into the reservoir were not immediately available.

lewellen_gauge_5-26-15

National Weather Service graphic

However, high flows along the North Platte River below Lake McConaughy are not expected to be an issue. As of May 26, the reservoir’s elevation was 3,253.2 feet, which is about 12 feet below the maximum elevation of 3.265.0 feet. Inflows, although expected to rise this week, were at 3,500 cfs on Tuesday while outflows were around 300 cfs. In short, the reservoir has capacity to store the high inflows expected this week.

At the same time, flows in the South Platte River are beginning to decline in Colorado, although more rain could alter that picture. At the Roscoe and North Platte gauges in Nebraska, the South Platte is expected to reach a peak on Wednesday or Thursday before beginning to decline. However, the South Platte is projected to continue to carry higher than normal flows for the next few weeks.

Only minor lowland flooding is currently projected for the Platte River in central Nebraska.

National Dam Safety Awareness Day is May 31

National Dam Safety Awareness Day is May 31

National Dam Safety Awareness Day occurs on May 31 of each year to commemorate the failure of the South Fork Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. The dam failure resulted in the loss of more than 2,200 lives and is the worst dam failure in terms of fatalities in the history of the United States.

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Aftermath of Johnstown Flood. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

National Dam Safety Awareness Day was created to encourage and promote individual and community responsibility for dam safety, as well as to provide information on what steps can be taken to prevent future catastrophic dam failures. A secondary goal is to promote the benefits dams offer to communities.

For 30 years, the federal government has been working to protect Americans from dam failure through the National Dam Safety Program (NDSP). The NDSP, which is led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is a partnership of the states, federal agencies, and other stakeholders to encourage individual and community responsibility for dam safety.

While Kingsley Dam, which impounds the largest reservoir in Nebraska, is the primary focus of Central’s dam safety efforts, Central also has prepared emergency action plans for dams impounding Jeffrey Lake and Johnson Lake.

The possibility that Kingsley Dam (or Jeffrey or Johnson dam) will fail is extremely remote, but Central would like the public to know that it is prepared in the event of an emergency that threatens the integrity of its dams.

Central updates and revises each of its emergency action plans (EAP) annually and distributes the revised plan to a designated list of local, state and federal entities. The purpose of the EAPs is to provide maximum early warning to all persons downstream of the dam involved in the unlikely event of a failure (catastrophic or otherwise) of the structure. In addition to providing early warning, Central’s objective is to minimize or eliminate danger to people and property downstream.

EAPs contain information pertaining to how potential conditions that could cause or signify an emergency situation and steps to follow to evaluate those conditions. Such conditions include inordinately high flows, adverse weather conditions, and any situations discovered during routine inspections of the structures.

Central’s dams are inspected regularly by well-trained employees, annually by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) personnel, and at five-year intervals by independent engineering consultants. Central also conducts functional exercises of the EAPs every five years – as required by the FERC — that involve representatives from the numerous agencies that would be involved. A functional exercise for Kingsley Dam is scheduled to take place at Central’s Gothenburg Division headquarters on June 10.

So you can rest easy tonight knowing that you probably don’t have to worry about failure of one of Central’s dams, but also that plans are in place to respond to such a calamity … just in case.

Visit http://engineeringstrongersafer.net/ for more information on National Dam Safety Awareness Day.

Additional information on national dam safety is available at: www.fema.gov/protecting-our-communities/dam-safety

 

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.

quagga_mussels_3

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.)

Image3_Julesburg_gauge_5-11-15

Image2_Roscoe_gauge_5-11-15

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.

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.

 

gothenburgemployees

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


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