Central District Planning Two New Reservoirs In Phelps County

Purpose is to store water when excessive flows occur in Platte River and release water back to river when shortages exist.

Published on: Jul 16, 2013

Most often, a new reservoir means flood control and recreation. But two shallow reservoirs planned near the Platte River in northwest Phelps County would be built to store and release water to meet flow requirements in the Platte River.

The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District recently approved an agreement to design, build and operate the two side-by-side "regulating" reservoirs, which combined would cover about 1,000 acres. At capacity, the reservoirs would be a maximum of 15 feet deep and hold about 15,000 acre-feet of water, according to Jeff Buettner, Central's public relations coordinator.

The reservoir project, which also involves the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the federal government, is part of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. As part of that program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set target flows in the river for endangered species, including the interior least tern, piping plover and whooping crane.

Central District Planning Two New Reservoirs In Phelps County
Central District Planning Two New Reservoirs In Phelps County

 "The purpose is to store water in the reservoirs at times of excessive flows in the Platte River and then release water back to the river to offset shortages to FWS target flows," he says.

Known as the J-2 Regulating Reservoirs because of their proximity to Central's J-2 hydroplant and the J-2 river return, the reservoirs would be located on Central's Phelps Canal south of the Platte River between Overton and Lexington.

The reservoirs are expected to yield about 40,000 acre-feet of water annually through retiming and also will be used to enhance periodic short duration, high-flow events to help maintain the river's braided characteristics, Buettner says.

The PRRIP will get credit for 75% of the water yield from operation of the reservoirs to offset shortages to target flows, and the State of Nebraska will be credited with 25% of the water yield to offset river depletions.

Cost to construct the necessary facilities, including improvements to the Phelps Canal, is estimated at $75 million. The PRRIP, through the federal government, will provide most of the funding, Buettner says. The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources will provide about 25% of the costs. Central's share of construction costs will be on more than $2.5 million.

The agreement is for 50 years, with an option to extend it another 20 years after the initial term expires.

Buettner says the next phase of the project includes final project design, acquiring the necessary state and federal permits and starting negotiations for land acquisition. "The parties are getting together to establish a timetable and continue the planning process," he says. "There's a lot to be done."

The project won't affect water delivers to Central's surface water irrigation customers.

Buettner adds that the reservoirs won't be suitable for recreation purposes because of their variation in water levels.