Skull Creek Watershed Project
The Skull Creek Watershed Project is a multi-use project providing flood control and outdoor recreation in Butler and Saunders counties.
In the mid-1980s, the Lower Platte North NRD began work on a project to alleviate flooding problems in the Skull Creek watershed. Skull Creek drains the northeast corner of Butler County and the extreme northwest corner of Saunders County before emptying into the Platte River between Linwood and Morse Bluff.
In 1986, the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission (now the Department of Natural Resources, NDNR) approved a flood control project for Skull Creek involving three dams and a levee system. However, before they would commit funds for the project, NDNR required at least 75 percent of the land above the structure sites to be treated with terraces or other conservation measures to reduce soil erosion.
Little progress was made in the next few years, and in 1989, the NRD and the Commission agreed to rethink the project. Two of the dam sites and the levee system were put on the back burner, and Site #55, one mile north of Bruno, became the focus of attention. Over the next 10 years, the NRD concentrated on meeting the requirement of 75% land treatment above Site #55.
Skull Creek Land Treatment
To speed land treatment work in the Skull Creek Watershed, the NRD began an aggressive cost-share assistance program in 1995. More than 20,000 feet of terrace and 9,000 feet of tile outlets were constructed, resulting in more than 75% of the watershed being considered treated or non-highly erodible land.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust funded the majority of this work with two grants totaling $220,000. More than $55,000 of local and state cost-share funds were also used.
Homestead Lake (Site #55)
Thanks to the accelerated land treatment program, the NRD achieved its goal of 75% land treatment above Skull Creek Site #55 (now known as Homestead Lake) in late 1998. In 1999, the Department of Natural Resources approved funds for the project. Seventy-five percent of the $792,471 project cost ($594,353) came from the Nebraska Resources Development Fund, with the remaining 25 percent ($198,118) coming from the NRD. The dam and recreation area were finished in spring 2001.
Homestead Lake provides up to a 37-surface-acre reservoir with a flood pool of 92 acres. The structure helps protect Abie, Linwood and surrounding areas from flood damage. Estimates in 2001 showed that on average, Homestead Lake will prevent $40,000 in flooding damages each year over the projected 50-year life of the project.
The site has also been developed for public recreation. The reservoir is open for fishing, picnicking, no-wake boating, in-season upland game hunting, and other activities.
Sites #30-31 & Levee System
Other proposed components of the Skull Creek Watershed Project - Sites #30 and #31 and a four-mile levee system - do not appear to be economically feasible at present, and the NRD will be not be pursuing them in the foreseeable future. Site #31 may be resurrected at some point in the future if cost/benefit ratios are favorable.