From the Archives: Electronic Equipment Will Monitor Supply Canal

From the Archives: Electronic Equipment Will Monitor Supply Canal

The following article, republished from the August, 1964 edition of The Central Nebraska Irrigator, Central’s newsletter, tells about a rudimentary alarm system along Central’s Supply Canal, which was the precursor of today’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that monitors and controls water conveyance and hydroelectric generation throughout Central’s hydro-irrigation project.

The article was, in a way, clairvoyant. The writer may or may not have had some foreknowledge of what was to happen in the near future, but it also demonstrated that even in 1964, Central was ahead of its time.

Eight years after the article was written, the Gothenburg Control Center went into operation (in January, 1972) when remote supervisory control was established over the Diversion Dam, the Supply Canal’s hydroplants and control structures and the head gates of the irrigation canals. All are now monitored on computers at the Control Center by a supervisory control operator.

Control of Kingsley Hydro, NPPD’s Keystone Dam and the head gates of NPPD’s supply canal at the east end of Lake Ogallala were later added to the Control Center’s responsibilities because of the need for close coordination between the three components of the system to ensure proper flows into the canal and down river.

Communication is the key to such an automated system. The District has its own microwave system, supplemented by buried cable and VHF radio links. All information gathered at the remote terminal units (RTUs) is fed into the Control Center’s computers.

There are more than 1,800 alarm, control or telemetering points on the system which monitor and/or control functions of canal structures, pump stations, the three Supply Canal hydros and Kingsley Hydro.

The Control Center computer is programmed to receive data from the RTUs, check for alarm conditions and alert the operator to any abnormal readings. The operator’s control console includes a video screen that shows the current condition at any selected location on the system. Control functions are accomplished on a keyboard. The control room is manned around the clock every day of the year.

The automation enables Central to: 1) increase the generation of hydropower; 2) better manage the system under high-water conditions, i.e., sudden, heavy rain storms; 3) reduce the incidence of spills; 4) reduce maintenance needs on the canals as a result of better control of flows; and 5) reduce operating costs.

 

 From The Central Nebraska Irrigator, July/August, 1964

Electronic Equipment Will Provide Constant Check of Central’s 75-Mile Long Supply Canal

Gothenburg Division personnel in charge of operating Central’s 75.6-mile-long Supply Canal are sleeping a little better these days as an alarm system has been installed that will automatically notify the operator on duty at Jeffrey Hydroplant of a high- or low-water situation at any of four locations along the canal.

(Editor’s note:  The featured image on the blog page shows the transmission equipment located adjacent to water level detection equipment on the Supply Canal.)

Designed by Central’s Assistant Chief Engineer Ed Hamilton, the equipment was installed by the District’s electrical crew and members of the Gothenburg Division. The alarm systems have been installed at mile posts 5.1, 11.9, 31.2 and 35.9. These locations were considered as strategic or the most critical along the lengthy canal route.

Dale Craig, Jeffrey Plant operator, checks receiver equipment linked by radio to transmission equipment along the Supply Canal.

Dale Craig, Jeffrey Plant operator, checks receiver equipment linked by radio to transmission equipment along the Supply Canal.

A water control gate is located at each of the four points and the alarms will tell the Jeffrey operator if water is high or low behind the gate or high or low below the gate.

The Jeffrey operator will also receive a visual and audio alarm should the power fail at any of the four locations.

The alarm equipment at the four canal sites includes electrodes and relays that are located in corrugated metal pipe wells upstream and downstream from the structure gates. These detect the high or low water levels. This equipment is connected to a radio transmitter with a tone encoder and timer that are mounted with a battery and battery charger as a power source.

When a high or low water level, or power failure occurs, the tone code is transmitted to the Jeffrey Power House by the radio transmitter and this code then switches on the proper light on a small panel at the power operator’s desk that indicates the location and type of trouble. A horn sounds at the same time.

The plant operator, hearing the horn, then checks the panel and determines by the light the location and type of trouble. He then silences the horn and contacts a canal patrolman or supervisor by phone and reports the trouble.

The four installations are the initial ones for the Supply Canal and it is expected that eight more locations will be included in the future.

A third phase in Central’s efforts to gain tight control of the Supply Canal will be automatic water recording equipment located at several points along the canal.

This equipment, by tone transmissions over the District’s Supply Canal telephone line, will give hourly readings of the canal water levels and gate openings.

The hydro plant operators will also be able to question this equipment at any time between the hourly readings.

When installed, the plant operator, after receiving a signal of high or low water conditions at any point on the canal, could then question the water recording equipment and find out exactly how high or low the water is. By questioning the water recorder at short intervals he could then determine if the trouble was of a temporary, self-correcting nature or if it is necessary to report the condition to a canal patrolman or his supervisor.

The information supplied by the alarm and recording equipment will give the Central District 24-hour coverage of its Supply Canal with instantaneous indications of canal trouble such as flooding from heavy rains, leaks or malfunctioning gates.

As the District gains more experience in the installation and operation of such electronic equipment, it is anticipated that similar systems will be worked into the hundreds of miles of irrigation canals owned and operated by the District.

 

Central donates floating pumps to Johnson Lake area fire departments

Central donates floating pumps to Johnson Lake area fire departments

The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District donated four portable water pumps this summer to fire departments in the Johnson Lake area.

The floating pumps will enable the volunteer fire departments – from Lexington, Elwood, Cozad and Eustis – to access water directly from lakes or canals in the vicinity of fires to supplement water available from tanker trucks.

The four pumps cost a total of about $13,000 and, according to Central Public Relations Advisor Tim Anderson, are kind of like insurance.

“We hope they never have to be used,” he said, “but they’ll be a nice addition to the fire fighters’ equipment in the event of a fire at the lake or another remote area where access to water is limited.”

The donation of the pumps came in the wake of a multiple-structure fire at Johnson Lake in 2013. One cabin was completely destroyed and two other cabins sustained extensive damage.

Anderson said the after-action report indicated that responding fire departments encountered difficulties with obtaining enough water to fight the fires.

He added that the pumps can be deployed quickly and, given the mutual aid agreement between the four fire departments, all four pumps could be used at the same time if necessary. Each pump can deliver about 300 gallons per minute.

“We thought – and the board of directors agreed — it was a good use of the lake improvement fund,” Anderson said, referring to money budgeted each year for improvements at Johnson Lake.

NRCS Boss, Employees Tour Project

NRCS Boss, Employees Tour Project

Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) toured Central’s hydro-irrigation project on July 14. Tour participants included Nebraska NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson of Lincoln and representatives from NRCS offices in Grand Island, Spencer, York, Lexington, Elwood and Minden.

Participants in the NRCS tour, including State Conservationist Craig Derickson (at left) listen to an explanation of how data from an automated weather station is used in the E67 irrigation management/telemetry project.

Participants in the NRCS tour, including State Conservationist Craig Derickson (at left) listen to an explanation of how data from an automated weather station is used in the E67 irrigation management/telemetry project.

The participants assembled at Central’s office in Holdrege, then headed to several sites within the District’s irrigated area, including stops showing pivot and sub-surface drip irrigation installations on Central’s system, and automated check gate structures along the main canals. One of the highlights in the morning was a stop at a site within the E-67 Canal area where Central’s Conservation Director Marcia Trompke explained the workings of the new telemetry project.

The telemetry project began this spring with the installation of radios, remote terminal units (mini-computers that relay data), and weather stations to serve one-third of the turnouts on the E-67 system. Over the next two years, the remaining turnouts will be similarly equipped.

This project’s objective is to gather irrigation water use and environmental data to support Central’s irrigation water management, water conservation and water quality goals. The project involves the cooperation of Central’s customers irrigating about 5,800 acres in the E67 area north of Elwood and Smithfield.

The project will collect irrigation water use data from irrigation flow meters and weather monitoring sensors crucial to irrigation management. Data will be available in real time to Central and individual irrigators through digital applications to help customers make sound irrigation management decisions.

The project is partially funded by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund and includes partnerships with UNL Extension for educational services and the McCrometer Co., which is providing flow meters, technical expertise and equipment installation training.

The tour continued on 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.

After lunch at Gothenburg’s Nebraska Barn & Grill restaurant, courtesy of Central, the group then headed to the Lake McConaughy Water Interpretive Center where the participants viewed a video about the construction of Kingsley Dam and then toured the reservoir’s control structures. Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen then explained the workings of the Kingsley Hydroplant, which was generating 30 megawatts of clean, renewable hydroelectric power at the time.

According to Nate Garrett, P.E., NRCS area engineer in Grand Island, who arranged the tour, “It was an opportunity for us to see one of Nebraska’s premier ag-engineering accomplishments and to network with one of our irrigation partners in the central part of the state. It was a fantastic tour.”

Tessa Combs, an NRCS intern who hails from Kentucky and who is working in Grand Island this summer, said, “It was really helpful to actually see the facilities and how they operate, instead of just reading about it or trying to figure out the complexities of the project by looking at a map.”

Central routinely offers tours of its hydro-irrigation project to organizations and groups throughout Nebraska, as well as groups from other states and foreign countries. If your group is interested in a one- or two-day tour of the sprawling project, contact Public Relations Coordinator Jeff Buettner at (308) 995-8601. We’ll set a date for you!

Central Conducts Exercise of Emergency Action Plan

Central Conducts Exercise of Emergency Action Plan

We’ve all heard the phrase that starts out, “In the unlikely event of … (insert here your favorite disaster).”

When it comes to a failure of Kingsley Dam, one can probably CAPITALIZE, boldface and underline the “unlikely” part of the phrase, but nevertheless, The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District is prepared. It HAS to be. Kingsley Dam impounds the largest body of water in Nebraska and its failure would be catastrophic by any measure, but if the dam failed when Lake McConaughy was full, the resulting flood would affect the Platte River Valley all the way to the Missouri River.

To be clear, the chance of a dam failure is at the lower end of the “slim to none” scale, but because of the volume of water involved and the potential consequences downstream, nothing is left to chance.

In Gothenburg Division Manager Kevin Boyd’s words, “Kingsley Dam is safe, it’s big, it’s sturdy and there are a lot of redundancies built into our ability to evacuate water rapidly to avoid overtopping or breaching the dam. Plus, there are a lot of eyes on the dam; it is constantly monitored and frequently inspected.”

But Central is prepared for the “what if’s.” As Nebraskans in many of the state’s river basins have seen all too frequently in recent years, floods caused by excessive snowmelt runoff, precipitation events or a combination of factors are a fact of life.

As part of that preparation, Central conducts a functional exercise of its Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for Kingsley Dam every five years. The object of the exercise is to coordinate with each local, county, state and federal agency on responses to such an emergency. In addition to refreshing each agency’s familiarity with their response plans, it also provides an opportunity for the agencies to provide input about how the response plans might be improved or updated.

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Central civil engineer Tyler Thulin, acting as a facilitator for the EAP, delivers a message to a member of the Nebraska State Patrol who was participating in the functional exercise.

During Central’s recent functional exercise, representatives from about 13 different agencies first went through a “table top” exercise where each agency outlined their planned responses in the event of an emergency. The scenario was then set for the functional exercise, which involved extremely high inflows into an already full reservoir, capped by several successive days of strong winds pushing high waves onto the dam. To provide a little realism, Central enlisted the assistance of KNOP-TV in North Platte to produce short videos containing simulated emergency broadcasts using their own on-camera reporters relaying details about the dam failure. The “broadcasts” were shown to the participants to set the stage for the functional exercise.

Participants were then dispersed throughout Central’s office in Gothenburg and the functional exercise was initiated, with messages among and between agencies flowing back and forth across the office phone system. “Facilitators” (Central employees) also helped the flow of information and communication by relaying “emergency messages” that required a response by a particular agency. For example, a message from a member of the public was given to the Nebraska State Patrol that reported a trapped motorist on a flooded road below the dam. The patrolmen on site then had to decide how they would respond given the limited ability to travel below the dam and the constraints upon available manpower.

The functional exercise simulates a dam failure or high-flow event in a stress-induced environment subject to time constraints on responses. It’s as close to reality as can be without actually mobilizing manpower and equipment. The exercise’s objectives include a determination of assets available from the various agencies, a test of how closely anticipated responses match reality, analysis of how the EAP can be improved, and providing an opportunity to improve cooperation among agencies.

In a high-inflow scenario that raises Lake McConaughy’s level to or near capacity, Central would follow an escalating set of conditions, starting with a “non-failure emergency” condition. If the situation is not resolved, Central would then enact the part of the EAP that alerts agencies about a “potentially hazardous situation developing.”

“One of the best options to save the dam that Central has is to increase releases through the “Morning Glory” spillway,” said Scott Airato, a senior civil engineer responsible for dam safety at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Chicago Regional Office. “Of course, if that becomes necessary to save the dam, the result will be significant flooding downstream.”

The next step – one that is hopefully never needed – would be implementation of responses to a dam breach or failure.

The FERC requires Central to consider every potential angle that might contribute to an event, from a sudden “sunny day” failure that starts with little flow in the river below the dam to a failure that occurs when there are already high flows in the Platte River downstream.

Removal of Lost Creek Flume

Removal of Lost Creek Flume
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Central employees begin removal of flume structure following the end of irrigation deliveries for 2014.

Work began this week on removal of the Lost Creek Flume west of Axtell. The flume, approximately 1,300 feet in length, is original to the project and has required numerous repairs. Over the years, it has deteriorated to a point that repair is no longer feasible, and Central’s board of directors voted in May to replace it with 2,700 feet of 42 inch pipeline, which will be used to continue to provide water to 1,785 acres downstream of the flume.

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A view from on top of the flume. Water is seen flowing through to provide irrigation water during summer 2014.

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The check gate shown here is used to control flow of water through the flume.

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Summer Internship

Summer Internship

The following post was written by Kyle Gaston, one of two CNPPID summer interns working at Lake McConaughy this summer. Kyle is an environmental science major at Doane College.

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Photos by Kyle Gaston

This summer has been quite the learning experience for me having never done work with birds before. I have learned a lot and had some good and some not so good experiences this summer. Locating birds, nests, and chicks took some time but the more I worked the easier it got. The job also got more enjoyable once I gained the confidence to do it. This job wasn’t all enjoyable though just like any other job. My first day working in one of the tern enclosures, I learn quickly to not look up because those terns seem to have extremely good aim and will leave your shirt, hat, and anything else you are wearing with white stains.

On a better note, there are some fun and enjoyable parts as well. The people I work with are almost always in good humor. We always seem to be making jokes and never allow people to forget some embarrassing events such as being stuck on the beach, even though we all have been stuck at some point. Overall, working for Central has been a fun and great experience for me even if those terns leave stains all over my clothes, and I would be happy to return and work again next summer.

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Photo by Kyle Gaston

4th of July Weekend at Lake McConaughy

4th of July Weekend at Lake McConaughy
Crowds on beaches of Lake McConaughy

Crowds on beaches of Lake McConaughy. (Photo by Nate Nielsen)

The combination of almost perfect weather and a three-day weekend – not to mention the inviting water and beaches of Lake McConaughy – produced a record number of visitors to Central’s storage reservoir over the Fourth of July weekend.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported that 181,147 visitor-days were recorded for the July 4-6 weekend. The previous record was 142,446 in 2010 when July 4 fell on a Sunday. A visitor-day is one person per day, so if a person stayed for three days, that would result in a count of three visitor-days. Using those figures, an average of more than 60,000 people were at the Lake McConaughy/Lake Ogallala recreation areas each day.

The NGPC reported that all 325 camping pads in their modern campground were occupied. Nate Nielsen, Central’s foreman at Kingsley Dam, reported that the beaches and shorelines were lined with campers and tents, in some places four and five rows deep.

The Keith County News reported that businesses catering to lake visitors, including restaurants and convenience stores, were busy throughout the weekend with large, steady crowds of customers.

Law enforcement officials reported no serious problems, although the local sheriff’s office, the State Patrol and fire and rescue crews were extraordinarily busy responding to various emergencies, accidents, traffic issues, incidents, and complaints. All in all, though, a family-friendly atmosphere predominated and fun, recreation and relaxation ruled the weekend.

Nielsen also reported that the crowds of people did an excellent job of avoiding tern and plover nesting areas. Central personnel helped patrol the areas and reported no incidents of nest disturbances.

Johnson Lake near Lexington also drew large crowds. Larry Ossenkop, clerk of the Sanitation Improvement District at the lake, used water usage figures to provide an estimate of about 6,500 people at the homes, cabins and campgrounds over the weekend. Water levels were favorable, the weather was near perfect (although Sunday’s temperatures rose to somewhat steamy levels) and the lake was busy with watercraft of all shapes and sizes.

“Sharing the Shoreline” at Lake McConaughy

“Sharing the Shoreline” at Lake McConaughy

Summer’s arrival (technically on June 21) means the beaches at Lake McConaughy are once again attracting crowds of visitors to enjoy the warm weather, swimming, camping and many other recreational pursuits. It also means the return of another group of visitors — piping plovers and interior least terns – two species of shorebirds that build nests and raise chicks on the beaches of Nebraska’s largest reservoir.

Piping plovers are a small (five to six inches long) sand-colored bird with a white breast and a single dark ring around the throat. Smaller than a robin, plovers have orange legs and an orange bill with a black tip. They are also recognizable by their “peep-lo” whistle, a sound beach-goers may hear before they can see the small and well camouflaged birds. Another characteristic that can aid in identification is the “broken wing” act the parent birds perform when an intruder nears their nests. The birds will feign injury, hoping to draw the intruder away from the nests and chicks.

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Piping plover on eggs

Like piping plovers, interior least terns build nests by scraping out a small bowl in the sand in which to lay eggs. Least terns are small (eight to nine inches) gray-white birds with black outer wing tips and yellow legs and bills. The tail is slightly forked and the head is capped with a black patch of feathers above a white forehead. Least terns are more aggressive in defense of their nests, diving at predators and often dropping excrement on anyone or anything that draws to close.

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Interior least tern

Piping plovers and least terns are already present and tending their nests, so it is once again time for Big Mac visitors to being the annual practice of “Sharing the Shoreline.” Although the nesting process is a little behind normal this year because of cool, damp conditions during the spring, the number of nests is expected to increase over the coming days. There are, as of June 11, five large enclosures in which a number of nests are located, two on the south shore and three on the north. Nests may also be located in other areas outside the existing enclosures.

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Plover nest at Lake McConaughy

Predation and severe weather are the most common causes of nest and chick loss among the species, but human disturbance can also result in nest destruction. Central locates and marks the birds’ nesting areas, so if visitors see signs or temporary fencing that indicate the presence of the birds and their nests, please avoid those areas. Also, remember to keep pets on leashes at all times when on the beaches and campgrounds. Failure to do so is a violation of a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission regulation and – since plovers are listed as threatened species and terns as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act – disturbance of nests or birds can result in a fine, jail term, or impoundment of any vehicle used in a nest disturbance. The best action to take upon encountering a nest site is to AVOID IT COMPLETELY!

Please help protect the birds and preserve Lake McConaughy’s beaches as the outstanding place for outdoor recreation that they are by “SHARING THE SHORELINE!”

 

Family Adventure Day at Johnson Lake

Family Adventure Day at Johnson Lake

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May 17, 2014
Family Adventure Day
10:00 am – 1:00 pm @ East Campground Johnson Lake;
Sponsored by the Nebraska Game & Parks.
Activities: Boy Scout demonstration of dutch oven cooking, s’mores, scavenger hunt, a Naturalist with displays of birds & mammals, canoeing, hunting for sandbox treasures and much more!!!


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