Summer Tech Will Treasure Experience for a Lifetime

Summer Tech Will Treasure Experience for a Lifetime

The experience of working at Lake McConaughy is something I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life.

I spent a second summer at Lake McConaughy working as a biological technician for The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. The gorgeous landscape that surrounds the huge lake is remarkable and the white sandy beaches make the lake unlike any other I’ve seen. The sandy shorelines make an excellent destination for campers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over, but people are not the only ones utilizing the beaches.

Piping plovers and least terns are small shorebirds that also call Lake McConaughy home during the summer months. These magnificent birds are ground nesters and the fine sandy beaches of Lake Mac make the perfect habitat in which to hide their eggs. But because the birds share their nesting sites with people who are enjoying the lake, their nests are in danger of accidental destruction from getting run over, stepped on, or destroyed by unleashed pets. This is where my job becomes important.

Plover eggs in a nest, a small scrape in the sand, exhibit the camouflage that provides protection. Photo by Dillon Schroeder.

During the early months of the summer – late May and June — a typical day for me would be to survey the beach, searching for plover and tern nests and eggs, which is more difficult than one might imagine. The eggs are slightly smaller than a quarter and blend into the sand extremely well, which is the reason they nest in open, sandy places.

Once a nest is located, certain actions must take place to ensure that it has the greatest possible chance of producing eggs and chicks. In areas where human traffic is heavy, an enclosure is constructed around the nest, consisting of orange flagging and signs to make it as visible as possible to beach-goers. The enclosures are large enough that the bird will feel comfortable sitting on the nest as people drive or walk by. In certain areas around the lake where nests are more frequently established, a much larger enclosure is built. These enclosures could have more than ten nests inside them, and make it possible for the birds and chicks to go all summer without human interaction. As the summer progresses, the eggs begin to hatch and then comes the difficult task of keeping track of all the chicks on the beach until they are old enough to take flight. This can be difficult as the chicks can roam a great distance in either direction in a single day. However, this summer was much different than last.

Early in the summer, we had many much needed rain showers, causing flows in the North Platte River to rise dramatically. This meant a high volume of water flowing into the lake, which raised its elevation by more than a foot a week. The beaches rapidly disappeared as the birds were trying to find a suitable spot to make a nest. Just as the birds would find a site, the location would become inundated by the rising lake. As days passed, more and more birds left the lake in search of different locations to nest. By the end of the July, which is the natural deadline for these birds to make a new nest, we had no successful nests as the lake rose to 97 percent of its capacity. All suitable habitats were covered by water and the birds were forced to leave without having a successful nesting year at the lake. However, these birds tend to be resilient and will surely be back next year to give it another go!

This summer at the lake was one of the most interesting experiences I have had. Watching how the birds reacted to the water rising and seeing them battle each other for territory on what little beach remained was a sight unlike any other. This summer also showed me just how much natural changes can affect the entire ecosystem of the lake. Not only were the birds forced to leave without successfully nesting, but people had to find other areas to park their campers or pitch their tents , which was quite a sight to see. The fishing at Lake Mac quickly became more challenging as the summer went on. As the lake expanded, so did the areas in which fish could forage or take cover. Watching how fisherman reacted and tried new tactics was also interesting to me, as I am an avid fisherman.

All in all, one of the most important lessons I learned this summer is that things don’t always go as planned, but you have to be ready for whatever happens and learn to adapt to the situation that you encounter. I am thankful I am able to come away from this experience with such an important life lesson!

— Tony Jenniges is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, majoring in wildlife management with plans to enter a master’s program in the same field. He has worked two summers for Central, as well as a summer internship with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He also has worked for Headwaters, Inc., on tern and plover monitoring at sandpits in the central Platte River area as part of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program monitoring efforts. In addition, he has participated in whooping crane monitoring by airplane, also a part of the PRRIP monitoring program.

The Supply Canal: Scenic Canoe Trips Await

The Supply Canal: Scenic Canoe Trips Await

Can you identify the locations of these photos?

Supply_Canal_Photo_1(a)Supply_Canal_Photo_3a

SUPPLY_CANAL_PHOTO_5a

No, they weren’t taken along a wild and scenic river, or at some national park. These photos were taken along Central’s Supply Canal, which runs from just east of North Platte to east of Lexington. Many sections of the canal wind through high banks, and narrow canyons.

The public is permitted to use the entire length of the canal for recreational purposes, excluding areas around Central’s three hydroelectric plants and NPPD’s Canaday Steam Plant. Portages around check structures are relatively easy, but getting around the hydroplants requires a lengthier overland trek. Launching a canoe or kayak may be difficult in some spots because of the shoreline protection materials (in most cases, broken concrete riprap). Many sections of the canal are paralleled by maintenance roads or state and county roads. The flow in the canal is relatively constant year-round, the water is 15 to 20 feet deep in most places, and the current is not rapid (no whitewater stretches), although caution should be exercised when approaching check gates.

The 75-mile-long Supply Canal and its many canyon lakes are used for hunting, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, camping and fishing. Only wakeless boating is allowed on the canal to prevent bank erosion.

Also, when planning a canoe or kayak trip, it’s a good idea to remember these helpful hints from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission:

  • Wear your life jacket.
  • Take a spare paddle.
  • Don’t canoe alone.
  • Have tether ropes on both ends of the canoe.
  • Take insect repellant.
  • Take ample water.
  • Take sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide-brim hat. The sun’s reflection off the water can be intense. If it is hot, start early or later in the day and make the trip shorter.
  • Put extra clothing, gear, and food in water-proof bags.
  • Take rain gear, but not ponchos.
  • Take first aid kit. Learn what poison ivy and poison oak look like, as well as black widow and brown recluse spiders.
  • Avoid contact with livestock and wild animals.
  • Protect your feet with tightfitting wading shoes.
  • Camp only in designated areas. Obtain permission prior to camping on, or entering the water from, private land.
  • Read maps and plan ahead. Be off the water before dark.
  • TRASH: If you create it, e.g., cans, bottles, food wrappers, etc., pack it out. Don’t discard it in the water.
  • Build fires only in fire rings; drown flames and coals after use. If no fire ring exists, use only camp stoves.
  • Use caution when loading and unloading near highway or county bridges.
  • And remember, Nebraska’s weather can be unpredictable and prone to extremes of temperature, humidity, wind and rate of change. Summer storms rapidly form, are fast-moving and can have rain, hail, high winds, lightning, and tornados combined.  Pay attention to signs of bad weather, get off the water and take cover as quickly as possible if a storm is approaching.

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

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.

E-6519.3

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.

eagle tree

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.

20141023_102103 20141023_104943

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.


1 2 3 4 5