Platte River Recovery Implementation Program J-2 regulating reservoirs project on hold

From the Kearney Hub (Lori Potter):

A report at the Sept. 9 meeting of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Governance Committee in Kearney estimated the current cost at $170 million. Neither figure includes property acquisition.

“Much of the work is on hold, in particular the negotiations with landowners,” said Mike Drain, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District Natural Resources Manager told the Hub Friday.

The Holdrege-based district would build, own and operate the two shallow reservoirs along the south side of the Platte River between Lexington and Overton that would temporarily hold excess water for later releases back to the river when needed to meet habitat target flows for threatened and endangered birds.

CNPPID’s major benefit would be to operate the upstream J-2 hydropower plant more efficiently.

The Platte Program, which involves the U.S. Department of Interior, Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, would pay the majority of the costs and get the majority of river benefit credits.

Nebraska would pay for 25 percent of the credits, with the Grand Island-based Central Platte Natural Resources District and Holdrege-based Tri-Basin NRD each participating for 20 percent of the Nebraska share.

At Thursday’s CPNRD board meeting in Grand Island, the NRD’s biologist and Governance Committee representative, Mark Czaplewski, was asked what factors had caused the two project estimates to be so far apart.

“The biggest one by far was underestimating what it would take to line the reservoir,” Czaplewski said, explaining that RJH Consultants Inc. of Englewood, Colo., the engineering consultant hired by CNPPID, based the original figure on surveys of off-site areas, while the new number applies to what is known about the actual J-2 project site.

“There were a number of things,” he added, including some redesign on the reservoirs’ ring dikes and that contractors were “a little hungrier” for jobs when the first estimate was made than they are now.

Czaplewski said the J-2 project is an important part of the Platte Program’s first-increment goal to reduce annual Platte River depletions by 130,000-150,000 acre-feet. The J-2 project benefits have been estimated at 48,000 a-f…

The J-2 Regulating Reservoirs project already was behind on several schedule targets. Drain said CNPPID officials had hoped to have full access or ownership of all land within the project footprint by the end of this year, which isn’t going to happen.

“There isn’t any way that we haven’t at least delayed the project now,” he added.

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