On this day in 1941, Kingsley Dam was officially dedicated. Water storage in Lake McConaughy began to fill and irrigation water was delivered that same year. The project as a whole was officially completed in 1943.
Chief Engineer George E. Johnson is shown above speaking at the dedication ceremony.
A large crowd gathered to attend the official dedication of Kingsley Dam.
Two young girls are shown here cutting a string to drop a capsule into the dam at the ceremony.
For more information on the history of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, visit our History page here.
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.
Fourth of July is a holiday many spend celebrating at the lake. This year, Johnson Lake events are being held on Saturday, July 5th. The day will begin with the annual boat parade 10:00 a.m. at LakeShore Marina boat docks. Sign up at LakeShore Marina C-Store from 8:00 am to 10:00 am. Immediately following the boat parade prizes will be given out.
There will also be a dock decorating contest on July 5th. Sign-up at LakeShore Marina from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Judging will take place in the afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. with cash prizes. The night will conclude with a wonderful fireworks show on the lake.
As always, please use safety precautions when boating or participating in other lake activities at any lake this weekend.
Spring has been good to Lake McConaughy this year, both in terms of inflows and outflows: quite a bit of the former and not so much of the latter. Several factors combined to bring about these circumstances.
First, snowpack in both the North Platte River Basin and the South Platte River Basin was well above median (normal) levels. When the spring melt began, the water began flowing into storage reservoirs. Despite the fact that the federal reservoirs on the North Platte River in Wyoming were well below normal in terms of carry-over storage, the mere fact that storage supplies were being replenished was good news.
Entering May, there was little cause for optimism. During a period when inflows to Lake McConaughy historically begin to rise, inflows were relatively flat and hovering around 60% of normal. However, shortly after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began moving water from its larger upstream reservoirs down to Glendo Reservoir in preparation for releases to irrigation canals in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska, the lower basin was hit with a series of heavy snowfall and precipitation events. The additional inflow pushed Glendo Reservoir into its flood pool and water was released down the North Platte River to make room for the extra water entering Glendo.
As a result, Lake McConaughy benefited from an unexpected spike in inflows that lasted from mid-May until the middle of June. Central’s main storage reservoir – thought to have peaked in early May – rose to a second peak near the end of June before inflows diminished, falling back below historic median flow rates.
At the same time, high flows in the South Platte River resulting from heavy snowmelt runoff and precipitation from spring thunderstorms entered Nebraska. For a period of several weeks, Central could hold water in Lake McConaughy and divert excess South Platte water into the Supply Canal to help fill the irrigation canals. Water in excess of amounts that could be diverted continued on down the Platte River, exceeding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s target flows for wildlife habitat purposes and allowing Central to divert excess flows into Elwood Reservoir for groundwater recharge purposes in both the Platte and Republican River basins. As of June 24, Elwood Reservoir’s elevation had gone up by more than eight feet.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Above: UNK Students and Professors pose for a group photo with Central’s Holly Rahmann on the shores of Jeffrey Lake.
Students from the University of Nebraska-Kearney recently participated in a tour of Central’s hydro-irrigation project, learning about irrigation, hydroelectric generation, wildlife habitat, recreation, groundwater recharge and – at the end of the tour – how to paddle a canoe.
Ten students and two professors spent two days with Public Relations Coordinator Jeff Buettner and Public Relations Assistant Holly Rahmann. They also heard on-site presentations from Senior Biologist Mark Peyton about wildlife habitat at Jeffrey Island, Gothenburg Division Manager Kevin Boyd at the Gothenburg Control Center, and Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen at the Lake McConaughy Visitors Center and the Kingsley Hydroplant.
Above: UNK students listen as Central’s Jeff Buettner explains the operations of the canal system shown.
UNK’s Summer Student Research Program, under Honors Program Director John Falconer, was established in 2002 to provide multi-disciplinary research opportunities to UNK undergraduates. Through this program, students work one-on-one with faculty experts to conduct original scholarly projects in their field of study. The experience increases knowledge in their discipline, improves critical thinking skills, and oral and written communication skills.
The summer program starts with a field trip to begin building a sense of community among the students, and to increase their understanding of south-central Nebraska. A “sense of place” is known to be an important factor in student development. The trip, hosted by Central each year, helps students learn how different audiences understand and use water resources that are vital to our regional economy. They also see how private and public organizations collaborate on important issues.
At the end of the tour, the students piled out of their vans and into canoes for an approximately 7-mile trip down the Supply Canal from just below Midway Lake to Gallagher Canyon Lake.
Above: Students launch canoes and begin their trip down the stretch of canal.
Central hosted 20 international students and four instructors for a recent tour of the hydro-irrigation project.
The tour group was part of a field course coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute for Water Education (UNESCO-IHE) which is based in The Netherlands. UNESCO-IHE partners with the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (DWFI/UNL), which in turn, partnered with Central to bring the students to Nebraska and to Central’s project area.
(Above: Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen (top center) explains hydroelectric operations near a spare wicket gate.)
The 14-day field course, coordinated by the DWFI/UNL faculty, is composed of two elements, field measurements and a field trip. The field trip gives the students the opportunity to observe hydraulic engineering structures, irrigation schemes and structures, the manufacturing of water management equipment, including center pivots, PVC pipe, water meters, and vertical turbine pumps, and the installation of subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).
Part of the tour group’s two days with Central included a stop at the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center near Gothenburg. The students also visited Central’s administrative headquarters in Holdrege; learned about Central’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) operations during a “virtual tour” of the control room; stopped at several sites within the irrigated area to see SDI and pivot sites and canal control structures; toured the Lake McConaughy Water Interpretive Center as well as the reservoir’s outlet structures and the Kingsley Hydroplant. The group stayed overnight at Jeffrey Lodge at Jeffrey Reservoir.
Students are required to develop a report that accounts for the site visits. In the field measurements portion of the course, students collect and analyze data and write technical reports that include their synthesis and interpretation of the results and a summary of each project. Topics include efficiency and analysis of irrigation systems, groundwater and wells, discharge measurement in streams and pipelines, pumping systems for irrigation, pipeline hydraulics, soil water measurement, and soil hydraulic properties.
The students at UNESCO-IHE are pursuing M.S. degrees in water science and engineering, specializing in land and water development. The students are experienced professionals from developing countries. This year’s class included students from Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Since 1957 the Institute has provided graduate education to more than 14,500 water professionals from over 160 countries, the vast majority from the developing world. Numerous research and capacity development projects are carried out throughout the world. The Institute offers a unique combination of applied, scientific and participatory research in water engineering combined with natural sciences and management sciences. Since its establishment the Institute has played an instrumental role in developing the capacities of water sector organizations, not least by strengthening the efforts of other universities and research centers to increase the knowledge and skills of professionals working in the water sector.
Laszlo Hayde and Sur Suryadi from IHE accompanied the tour group from the Netherlands. UNL faculty on the tour included Dean Eisenhauer and Derek Heeren. Central personnel who met with the students included Irrigation Division Manager Dave Ford, Kingsley Dam Foreman Nate Nielsen, and Gothenburg Division Manager Kevin Boyd. Public Relations Coordinator Jeff Buettner was the tour guide and host. Monte Vonasek of Central Valley Irrigation and John Ford, a producer and irrigation customer, also met with the group to share information about on-farm irrigation systems.
May 24, 2014 – Johnson Lake Annual Garage Sales
Mark your calendar now so you will not miss out on this fun day of bargain hunting!
Also on May 24th… Put on your running shoes and head to the Johnson Lake EMS annual 5K walk starting at 10:00 a.m. at the EMS Training Center followed by a free will BBQ until 1:00 p.m.
Eight new employees at Central recently participated in a one-day tour of the project to become more familiar with the many facilities that are part of operating the system.
Starting at the Holdrege Administrative Headquarters, the group traveled through parts of the irrigated area that included irrigation canals, laterals and turnouts, check structures and pivot sites using water from the canal system. After passing through the area that is the future site of the J-2 Regulating Reservoirs, the employees stopped at the headgate of the Phelps Canal and the J-2 River Return, which is the terminus of the 76-mile-long Supply Canal.
The group also stopped at Elwood Reservoir and the Carl T. Curtis Pump Station before visiting the Johnson Lake inlet and the headgate of the E65 Canal. After a stop at the Control Center in Gothenburg, where they learned about how Central’s control operators manage water flows, hydroelectric generation and communications throughout the District, the group visited Jeffrey Reservoir, Jeffrey Lodge and Jeffrey Hydroplant.
After lunch in North Platte, the group continued on to Kingsley Dam and Lake McConaughy where they had the opportunity to browse through the Lake McConaughy Water Interpretive Center, go out on the “Morning Glory” spillway and Control Tower, and received a guided tour through the Kingsley Hydroplant.
On the way back home, the employees stopped at the Nebraska Public Power District’s Keystone Diversion Dam at the east end of Lake Ogallala, and made one last stop at Central’s North Platte Diversion Dam.
All told, the tour group traveled more than 400 miles in about 10 hours and despite the wind and cool temperatures (particularly on the control structures at Lake McConaughy, gained a more complete understanding of how all the facilities within Central’s project fit together to provide benefits for irrigation, hydroelectric generation, recreation, wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge.
Employees who participated in the tour include (pictured left to right): Dustin Ehlers, general maintenance in Gothenburg; Jason Dorsey, who accompanied his wife, Kristen Dorsey, administrative assistant in Holdrege; Jarred Rickertsen, electrical/mechanical maintenance, Gothenburg; Brent DeBoer, assistant control operator, Gothenburg; and Jake Sitorius, Blake Munster, Scott Peterson, and Ethan Lambert, all in general maintenance at the Gothenburg Division office.
Post written by Jeff Buettner – CNPPID Public Relations Coordinator