Platte River reservoirs years in future
By Lori Potter,
However, decisions, designs or work on a project could be years away.
"Reservoirs are expensive things, and big decisions need to be made," said Jerry Kenny of
If the Governance Committee of Colorado,
Kenny said the next step, which might be taken at the PRRIP Governance Committee's June 12-13 meeting in
He said that if program, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, and Nebraska Department of Natural Resources officials decide to construct a project, permits must be acquired and there could be additional environmental and cultural studies.
"I just want to emphasize that there is sensitivity to the fact that the
How it would work
Holdrege-based CNPPID owns the water rights involved and would own and operate the project.
General Manager Don Kraus said CNPPID would be responsible to negotiate land purchases if the project goes forward.
The first landowners meeting with Platte Program and CNPPID representatives was Wednesday night in
Kenny said an agreement between Central as owner-operator and the water lessees, the program and state of
He said there are escape clauses "if anything along the way sort of pulls the plug on it."
Kraus said a final agreement will define the amounts project participants will pay toward total project costs, including land acquisition. He said CNPPID will make a financial contribution.
Although CNPPID has eminent domain authority, Kraus emphasized that the district's approach will be to negotiate with landowners.
John Thorburn, general manager of the Holdrege-based Tri-Basin NRD, said, "We're a partner in the project because we will be able to count some of that water as offsets for groundwater pumping" that affects river flows. He said the goal is to get 2,000 a-f of credit while contributing $1 million in equal payments over two fiscal years.
Kenny said three projects - an environmental account in
"Reservoir projects are never easy, but this would go a long way toward solving a lot of problems for a lot of people," he said.
It also would help efforts to get enough water from
Kenny said a J-2 project would put the water closer to the critical habitat for threatened and endangered species - least terns, piping plovers and whooping cranes - and make it easier to create target flows of 8,000 cubic feet per second between Overton and Grand Island for three to five days.
Kraus said the main benefit for his district would be to smooth out fluctuating water flows and allow more efficient operation of the Johnson No. 2 hydropower plant. There also would be efficiency benefits for the irrigation system.
Kenny said the goal for hydropower production is to run at peak production for perhaps 12 hours with the reservoirs capturing excess water not needed for irrigation. "This provides a bucket to capture that water so you run both (the power plant and irrigation system) most efficiently," he said.
Kraus and Kenny said a key project design goal would be to limit reservoir seepage. That would keep the most water possible for river releases while also minimizing effects on area landowners.
Some project decisions must be made while the studies are in progress. "There are some risks and there will be some swallow-hard moments when decisions will have to be made and you wish that you knew a little more," Kenny said. "... You make the best decision you can."
He said that in a best-case scenario, a reservoir project would be operational in 2016. "I think the parties still believe the project makes sense," Kraus said.
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