The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District has received federal approval to store additional water in Lake McConaughy near Ogallala.
Due to higher than normal flows in the North Platte River this spring, Central asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late March for permission to start the "stair-stepped" spring elevation restrictions two weeks earlier than prescribed by FERC.
Normally, Lake McConaughy's spring storage level is not to exceed elevation 3260 feet until April 25, at which time it is allowed to gradually increase to a maximum elevation of 3265 feet by May 21.
The reservoir was at elevation 3257.3 (a storage volume of 1,517,500 acre-feet) as of April 19 and has been rising by about a tenth of a foot per day. Inflows on the North Platte River have been near or above 4,500 cubic feet per second since late March, which is about three times the normal inflow for this time of year.
Mountain snowpack in the North Platte River drainage basin is well above normal and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been releasing water from its reservoirs on the North Platte River in anticipation of heavy spring runoff over the next several weeks. This creates the potential for even higher inflows to Lake McConaughy through the spring.
Central also received permission to temporarily increase the maximum reservoir elevation from 3,265 to 3,267 feet if necessary to mitigate potential flooding downstream. The increase would allow additional storage of up to 62,000 acre-feet of water.
"At this time, we don't know if it will be necessary to exceed the elevation restrictions, but it is important that we have that option available," says Central General Manager Don Kraus.
Central's request to the FERC was supported by letters from the City of North Platte, the Twin Platte Natural Resources District, the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency, and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.