Environmental Inspection Report – Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Project Area Description
The project runs west to east and is located in the sand hills, plains, and valleys of the North Platte and Platte Rivers.
The Sand Hills flank the North Platte from Lake McConaughy to its confluence with the South Platte forming the Platte River at North Platte. The Sand Hills consist of fine sand piled into low hills and ridges covered with grass. Because there is no grass around Lake McConaughy, sandy beaches surround the lake. Because of the lower water levels, there is vegetation growth around the lake, where only sand had existed. The southeastern side of the lake and the Supply Canal are bordered by Brule clay bluffs and cliffs.
A deep layer of wind-deposited loess is the parent material blanketing the southwestern and south central parts of the project region. The loess is covered by fine, fertile loam which is the core of the agricultural economy in the project region.
The Supply Canal flows through a region of steep bluffs and canyons. In the past, these areas were very isolated. However, homes are being built in some of these areas now.
Water from Lake McConaughy, Nebraska’s largest reservoir, is released in a controlled flow through the Kingsley Dam hydropower plant to irrigate over 112,000 acres of farmland through a 785-mile network of canals and laterals. Most of the irrigated acres are located in Gosper, Phelps, Kearney, Lincoln and Dawson Counties in south-central Nebraska. Water from Lake McConaughy also provides groundwater recharge for more than 300,000 acres served by private irrigation wells.
A Form 80 was filed January 23, 2003.
Martin Bay boat ramp, on the south side of Lake McConaughy, and Divers Bay boat ramp on the north side of the lake will effectively be the only two remaining usable boat ramps at the lake as the drought continues. The Martin Bay boat ramp had to be relocated to lower elevation, while Divers Bay boat ramp had to be extended.
Fish and Wildlife:
Dissolved Oxygen at Lake Ogallala:
A pilot project of liquid oxygen being directly injected at Lake Ogallala is underway. The mechanism and pumping facility is physically located in the north end of Lake Ogallala, which is Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s (CNPPID) section of the lake. It is used to maintain the trout put-and-take fishery. There is a flow meter inside the facility. There are 16 distribution lines on each side of Lake Ogallala. The target has been to reach 6 mg/l at about one meter from the bottom of the lake.
All lands at Lake McConaughy are managed under recreational leases with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGP) except Clear Creek Wildlife Area, which is managed under a wildlife lease.
The licensee leases the North Shore Lodge area to Nebraska Game and Parks, which sub-leases the area to a concessionaire, who rents trailers and mobile homes to individuals. This is a very congested area. The North Shore Lodge has a 300-gallon septic tank, and there are four wells to serve the site. A viable solution is being investigated for the sub-tenants of the concessionaire, including input from the Department of Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, NGP, concessionaire, residents, and the licensee. There is a spillover encroachment involving trailers, trucks, and so forth, parked unauthorized on project lands, which needs to be addressed.
The inspector was provided with a copy of the new permitting procedures, which are a provision of the approved Land and Shoreline Management Plan. The permitting procedures are applicable on all of the licensee’s lands within the FERC project boundary.
The inspector observed certain sites, particularly at Plum Creek Lake, where there is increasing potential for real estate development requests, amenities, and accommodations, to the licensee in the future. Real estate development requests for non-project uses of project lands are treated as an amendment of the project license. Section II, Part 5, of the Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance’s Compliance Handbook (March, 2002) details many of the requirements for amendments related to non-project uses of project lands, and Appendix I contains information that should be included in applications for proposed non-project uses or facilities. All required setbacks and conformance with the provisions of the Land and Shoreline Management Plan and all other applicable license requirements and conformance with other federal, state, county, and local plans and requirements must be met.
The inspector observed the Merriweather Subdivision shoreline area, where the lease expires in 2011. This is one of the few locations where the licensee owns a long strip of undeveloped land at Johnson Lake. This does have the potential to be a swimming beach and day use area.
Also at the Merriweather Subdivision, there is a concept of possibly changing the general lease to individual leases for each home owner. Any modifications need to be in conformance with the provisions of the Land and Shoreline Management Plan and other applicable license requirements.
Cattle and goats are now being used for targeted species of noxious weeds and heavy vegetation control. Although this is a simple idea, it is complex in its implmentation and application. The cattle are moved five to six times per day, creating an intense, concentrated, short duration grazing method. So far, clover has been following the cattle grazing. The cattle were on the western side of the island at the time of the inspection. This concept attempts to simulate the effect of large bison herds on the land, followed by giving the land a rest for about a year. The complementary use of goats to reduce woody plants through pulse grazing has reduced the cool season invasive species and noxious weeds. There was noticeable improvement in the control of musk thistle under grazing management.
The Jeffrey Island livestock manager is on a performance-based agreement. The goal of the agreement is habitat achievement rather than livestock production, but the two are not mutually exclusive or contradictory. If done properly and conscientiously, with correct timing and attention to detail, this type of management tool can work effectively. There are about 150 water sites using existing wells and portable tanks. The island is fenced in a particular way, which is helpful in achieving focused grazing in target areas.
Noxious Weed Control:
Noxious weed control is required in Nebraska and Canada thistle, salt cedar, and purple loosestrife are all considered noxious weeds in the state. Phragmites, which is a sudden, growing problem, has not yet been designated as such. County weed directors have the authority to fine land owners.
Salt cedar is growing on the south side of the reservoir, about three miles east of the dam to the west end. It is very predominant at the project since the drought. Phragmites originated in Eurasia and is very predominant on the North Platte River area. The University of Nebraska-Kearney is working to determine the water loss caused by phragmites because this plant has the potential to become a great threat to the Platte River ecosystem.
At Nebraska Game and Park’s Clear Creek Wildlife Area there is an infestation of Canada thistle. There are currently about 2,000 acres of Canada thistle in the 6,000 acres of wildlife area.
At Van’s resort on Lake McConaughy there is a salt cedar invasion. Salt cedar is an extreme water user and costs about $200 per acre to control using herbicides. Van’s is a recreation lease from Nebraska Game and Parks and the lease with the licensee states that NGP will suppress noxious weeds.
The inspector recommends that each year prior to the upcoming recreation season the signs and other public safety devices should be observed, monitored, and replaced as necessary.