New authorization in a federal water bill might allow the Army Corps of Engineers to take a step forward in addressing the filling in of Nebraska’s second largest lake.
Corps of Engineers spokesman Paul Boyd says the funding proposal will provide enough money to combine all the studies of Lewis and Clark Lake over the past 30 years to decide whether there is a combination of management options that could extend the life of the reservoir.
About five-million tons of sand and mud flow into Lewis and Clark Lake each year, mostly from the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers. The reservoir located along the Nebraska-South Dakota border has lost nearly a third of its water capacity over the years.
Boyd says any proposed solution would have to prove that the benefits outweigh the costs.
“How long are we going to get that benefit? Is it 50 years? Is it 100 years? What do we need to spend now to preserve the benefits for not just next year, but for my grandchildren who want to go fishing on the lake?”
The problem has been known for decades. Nothing has been done.
Boyd says he understands public skepticism but believes this might actually spark action.
“I know everybody is frustrated,” Boyd tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate WNAX. “We’ve been talking for 30 years. I am very sympathetic to that, but we have something here that might take another step. They’re all incremental steps, but this is another step forward. So, I would love to see us moving out in the next year.”
Any solution could be difficult and expensive.
A study by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates the sand could be used by the oil and gas industries for fracking. How to remove and transport the river sand could prove difficult.
Boyd has made a presentation before the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition. The coalition is comprised of cities, counties and other interested parties along the Missouri River in Nebraska and South Dakota.
More than 1 million people visit the Lewis and Clark Lake area each year to camp, fish and boat.
Jerry Oster with WNAX contributed to this report.