Sandbag levees and earthen dikes are ready for the anticipated flooding in North Platte. Nebraska’s largest reservoir, Lake McConaughy, sits on the North Platte River and remains at 96-percent capacity.
Jeff Buetner, spokesman for the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, which owns the lake, says they’re trying to keep releases from the reservoir near the same levels as inflows.
He says the lake’s elevation has been steady for a few weeks and they want to allow for a little room as the federal agencies upstream say flows will be heavy throughout summer and well into fall.
After years of drought and record low levels at Lake McConaughy, Buetner says Central became aware of the potential for filling the reservoir as early as last summer. He says they ran through as much water as possible to meet downstream demands last year.
There were problems with ice on the river during the winter which can bring problems with flooding, so Buetner says: “We were not able to evacuate as much water as we would’ve liked to. We were running above-normal amounts of water out of the reservoir all winter and into the spring.”
He says projections early in the year from the Wyoming Rockies called for a normal or slightly above-normal snow pack, but those quickly changed.
In mid-May, he says the snow pack had risen to 42-inches of snow-water equivalent, or about 173% of normal and it started to melt. Then, they got another whopper snowfall that raised the level right back up.
He notes, Central is somewhat walking a tight rope with Lake McConaughy, in that they need to continue releasing water from the reservoir to make room for increased inflows, but they can’t release so much that it would cause devastation downstream.
Inflows into the reservoir are up slightly from a week ago at just over 8,200 cubic feet per second, which is almost twice as much water as what was coming into the reservoir at this time last year.
Buetner says flows into the reservoir are already in the top ten highest in the history of the reservoir, with the potential of ascending to the top spot, previously set in the 1983-84 season.
Josh Mackey, KOGA, Ogallala