KEARNEY, Neb. — The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District's board of directors has approved a plan to build two shallow reservoirs in northwest Phelps County to help manage Platte River flows.
The 50-year agreement, which was approved last week by the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Governance Committee, calls for Central to own and operate the project.
Platte Program Executive Director Jerry Kenny has said that the reservoirs will be able to temporarily hold 15,000 acre-feet of water. That will help meet a program goal to reduce river depletions by 50,000 to 70,000 acre-feet by 2019.
Platte River target flows are set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to benefit Platte River habitat for endangered whooping cranes and least terns and for threatened piping plovers.
The program, which involves Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and the U.S. Department of the Interior, aims to meet those targets so that all Platte Basin projects that have federal licenses, leases or permits, including Central and the Nebraska Public Power District, will be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
Otherwise, each project would have to meet compliance standards individually.
Central General Manager Don Kraus said a main benefit for Central will be the ability to level off river highs and lows, which will allow more efficient operation of the J-2 Hydropower Plant south of Lexington. Central officials now can shift their focus to acquiring land, hiring an engineer and applying for permits.
The Governance Committee's vote was unanimous, and the Central board's vote was 8-2. One member abstained and one was absent.