HOLDREGE, Neb. — High Platte River flows and lowland flooding won’t go away soon.
However, the basin’s water managers believe their worst fears about massive flooding this year won’t be realized.
“North Platte and areas downstream have dodged a bullet,” Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District civil engineer Cory Steinke said Tuesday at Central’s board meeting in Holdrege.
Reservoir releases have been cut in recent weeks, Steinke said, and he thinks the Platte River has seen its peak flows for 2011.
As of Tuesday morning, Lake McConaughy held 1,727,800 acre-feet of water, and its elevation was 3,264.5 feet above sea level. That’s 6 inches and about 15,000 acre-feet below the usual maximum for this time of year under the power district’s federal operating license.
However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is allowing Lake McConaughy to fill an additional 2 feet, if needed, because of the high water conditions.
Steinke said lake inflows and releases both are about 5,500 cubic feet per second.
The recipe for massive flooding — full reservoirs combined with huge amounts of snow in the Rocky Mountain headwaters for the North Platte and South Platte Rivers — didn’t materialize.
Steinke had predicted peak runoff into Nebraska from Colorado’s South Platte Basin of 7,000 to 10,000 cfs, but it peaked at 1,500 to 2,000 cfs. There were similar predictions for the Laramie River, a main tributary of the North Platte River in Wyoming.
Steinke said no one really knows what happened, except that relatively cool weather helped slow melting and runoff.
He said it would be “kind of a longer, delayed melt,” which probably will mean constant river flows into August.
“There are a lot of unknowns. We still have that,” Steinke said, but more moderate Lake McConaughy inflows from the North Platte River will allow him to work with North Platte city officials to reduce flooding there in the coming weeks.