SCHUYLER 205 LEVEE PROJECT
The Lower Platte North NRD was a local partner with the City of Schuyler for a levee construction improvement project to reduce flooding from Shell Creek.
Phase I of the project involves levees on a 2.5 mile stretch near Shell Creek north and east of Schuyler. The official groundbreaking for the project was held March 27, 2014, and major construction was completed in late 2014 with remaining work mostly completed in 2015.
Construction and land rights costs for the project were $3.9 million, with 65% ($2.54 million) coming from the Corps and the remainder ($1.37 million) from the local partners.
SAND CREEK ENVIRONMENTAL RESTORATION PROJECT
The Sand Creek Environmental Restoration Project is a multifaceted project that provides environmental restoration, flood control, and recreation benefits for the Sand Creek Watershed area in Saunders County.
Lake Wanahoo, the keystone of the project, takes its name from Wanahoo Park, a popular recreation area that operated in the Wahoo area from the 1920s through the mid-1960s. (See pictures and a history of Wanahoo Park here.)
Lake Wanahoo is located one mile north of Wahoo, just west of the Highway 109/77 junction. The dam was completed in 2010, impounding a 662-acre lake (approximately seven times as large as nearby Czechland Lake at Prague, and just slightly smaller than Pawnee Lake near Emerald).
The Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area, managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, opened to the public in April 2012, offering fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, day use, no-wake boating, disc golf, and more.
After preliminary studies indicated that the idea held promise, the project partners commissioned a more detailed feasibility study in 1996. That study, completed in June 1997, reaffirmed the merits of the plan and recommended that the project go forward.
As the project progressed, it evolved into a broader-based watershed project focused on environmental restoration, with flood control and recreation as added benefits.
Land rights acquisition for Lake Wanahoo was completed in summer 2000. In the Water Resources Development Act passed later that year, the project was given “conditional approval” by the Corps of Engineers, which required additional studies and reports. Final approval was granted in January 2003, and the Project Cooperative Agreement was signed in April 2004.
Work began on fishery structures in summer 2004. Construction on the wetlands phase of the Lake Wanahoo site (north of the lake) was completed in fall 2008. Work on a breakwater structure and the Lake Wanahoo dam embankment began in fall 2008 and was completed in 2009. Construction of the dam was finished in August 2010. Recreation facilities and five of the planned upstream dams were constructed in 2011-2012, and the Lake Wanahoo State Recreation Area opened to the public in April 2012. The seven upstream dams were completed in 2013.
Hydrology and Hydraulics Recap
Recreation is also a benefit of Lake Wanahoo. The 662-acre lake and 1,777-acre recreation area is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and is the largest body of water to open for public use in eastern Nebraska in at least two decades.
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 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
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)
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, camping, and other activities.
Sites #30-31 & Levee System
WESTERN SARPY-CLEAR CREEK LEVEE PROJECT
Spring ice jams have been a recurrent problem on the Lower Platte River, causing widespread flood damage to homes, businesses, and farmland. In 1993, flooding from an ice jam in the Ashland area closed Interstate 80 and local highways and endangered the National Guard Camp and the City of Lincoln’s wellfield.
Existing levees provide some measure of protection against such floods, but they are not built to uniform standards. In cases where levees are built of different materials and to different heights on opposite sides of the river, or where one side has levees and the other does not, flood damage can be intensified on the less well-protected side. Along some segments of the river, levees on opposite sides are too close together, creating a bottleneck which can worsen floods downstream.
To correct these problems and improve flood protection along the river corridor, three natural resources districts have joined with state and federal sponsors in the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Levee Project
Near Thomas Lakes (just south of where the Elkhorn joins the Platte), notches will be cut into an existing levee on the west side of the Platte, and a new levee will be constructed further back to remove a bottleneck.
Further south, a levee was built around the Ashland National Guard Camp. Across the river, just north of the U.S. Highway 6 crossing, new levees will be constructed near the Beacon View housing development. Five homes will be directly affected by these new levees, and owners will be given the option of selling their homes to the project sponsors or having them moved to higher lots in the Beacon View area. Twenty-three other nearby homeowners will be given the option of selling their homes or having them raised to a safe elevation at their current locations.
PLATTE RIVER ICE JAM AGREEMENT
Each winter and spring, the Lower Platte North NRD and its partners in the Platte River Ice Jam Agreement closely monitor conditions on the Lower Platte River so that ice jams can be dealt with in a timely manner to prevent flood damage.
The group primarily focuses on the stretch of river from south of Fremont to Plattsmouth. In addition to the Lower Platte North NRD, the Ice Jam Agreement includes the Papio-Missouri River and Lower Platte South NRDs and Cass, Douglas, Sarpy, and Saunders counties.
Each partner contributes to a reserve fund to help deal with potential ice jams. When conditions warrant, the reserve fund is used to hire licensed explosive contractors to blast jams loose.
The NRD is also a partner in the Western Sarpy-Clear Creek Levee Project, which has extended and filled gaps in the levee system that protects Thomas Lakes, the Ashland National Guard Camp, the Lincoln well field, and more.