Operations of the Central District
The Central District is a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska with headquarters in Holdrege. It is governed by a 12-member board of directors elected from Gosper, Phelps, Kearney, Keith, Lincoln and Dawson counties. Directors are elected to serve six-year terms. Central’s hydroelectric facilities are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The Central District is organized as two major divisions for the purposes of operation. The Irrigation Division headquarters are located in Holdrege with a satellite office in Bertrand. The Hydro Division is located at Gothenburg. A branch office of the Gothenburg Division is also maintained at Kingsley Dam near Ogallala. Central’s administrative headquarters are in Holdrege.
Central’s facilities begin with its main storage reservoir, Lake McConaughy. Formed by Kingsley Dam, a 3.1-mile-long hydraulic fill dam across the North Platte River, Lake McConaughy is Nebraska’s largest reservoir with a storage capacity of almost 2 million acre-feet. The lake is 22 miles long, more than three miles wide and covers 30,500 acres at maximum fill.
Water released from Lake McConaughy flows through Lake Ogallala to the Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) Keystone Diversion Dam. Here the water can be diverted into NPPD’s canal or passed through the dam down the North Platte River. Water which flows through NPPD’s system is returned to the South Platte River just above Central’s Diversion Dam 50 miles east of Lake McConaughy below the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers.
Central’s Diversion Dam, an 874-foot-long concrete and steel structure, diverts water through the headgates of the Supply Canal, or can pass water down river. The 75-mile-long Supply Canal delivers water to Central’s three main irrigation canals, E65, E67 and Phelps, which serve a total of around 103,000 acres in Gosper, Phelps and Kearney counties, while another 5,700 acres in Lincoln and Dawson counties receive irrigation service directly from the Supply Canal.
Central’s delivery system includes more than 500 miles of canals, laterals and pipelines. The E65 Canal starts just above the inlet to Johnson Lake and the E67 Canal branches off the Supply Canal just below the lake. The two canal systems serve about 48,000 acres in Gosper and western Phelps counties. Central’s irrigation office in Bertrand is responsible for maintenance and irrigation service on the E65 and E67 systems.
Elwood Reservoir, which was added to the system in 1976 as part of a major rehabilitation project, provides supplemental storage water to the E65 canal system. The reservoir is filled prior to the irrigation season by pumping water through the Carl T. Curtis Pump Station. The reservoir has an operational capacity of 24,715 acre-feet and a total capacity of more than 40,000 acre-feet.
Irrigation offices in Holdrege and Bertrand provide maintenance and irrigation services along the Phelps Canal system. The Holdrege office is responsible for approximately 52,200 acres in Phelps and Kearney Counties and the Bertrand office serves about 49,900 acres in Phelps and Gosper Counties.
The system also provides documented ground water recharge benefits to more than 310,000 acres in and adjacent to the project area. These recharge benefits are recognized within the District’s U-2 and U-12 incidental underground storage water rights. In addition, supplemental irrigation benefits are provided to irrigation companies serving lands along the North Platte River between Kingsley Dam and North Platte and downstream on the Platte River to Kearney.
As water travels through the Supply Canal, it produces power at the Jeffrey, Johnson No. 1 and Johnson No. 2 hydroplants, each with an electrical generation capacity of 21,000 kilowatts. The three hydroplants are unmanned and remotely operated from the Gothenburg Control Center. With the addition of the 50,000-kilowatt Kingsley Hydro in 1984, also operated from Gothenburg, water flowing through Central’s system can generate up to 113,000 kilowatts of electricity. All power generated at Central’s hydro facilities is sold to NPPD for distribution to electrical customers.
In addition to the hydroplants, the Control Center maintains remote supervisory control over NPPD’s Keystone Dam and supply canal headgates, all control structures on Central’s Supply Canal, the headgates of the main irrigation canals and control structures on the E65 and Phelps irrigation systems.
Central’s project also provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities and habitat for wildlife. The Lake McConaughy/Lake Ogallala area attracts vacationers and tourists who spend over one million visitor-days annually at the lakes. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) manages State Recreation Areas at the lakes and the Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area at the west end of Lake McConaughy.
Twenty-six lakes, ranging in size from less than one acre to more than 2,500 acres, are located along the Supply Canal, providing abundant recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat. Recreation areas managed by the NGPC are available to the public at Gallagher and Johnson lakes and wildlife management areas are located near Box Elder, Cottonwood, Midway and East Phillips lakes.
Central’s lakes also provide benefits to owners of approximately 1,100 private homes and cabins which are situated on District property around McConaughy, Jeffrey, Midway, Plum Creek and Johnson lakes.
Through cooperation with the NGPC as well as private developers, Central’s facilities provide significant contributions to the State of Nebraska in terms of recreation and wildlife habitat. Central’s lakes cover a total of 35,688 surface acres of water, the basis of associated benefits to recreation and wildlife. Approximately 5,900 acres of land adjacent to Central’s lakes are managed by the NGPC as State Recreation Areas and about 6,800 acres are designated as Wildlife Management Areas.