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Council hopes water rights to Lake Helen can be resolved

Engineer hired to clear up issue.

Clearing up water rights to Lake Helen could be a first step to cleaning the lake.

At their Nov. 15 meeting, Gothenburg City Council members hired Miller & Associates Consulting Engineers of Kearney to help resolve the issue.

City administrator Bruce Clymer said the city received a surface water right when the lake was dug in the late 1880s to produce hydro-electric power.


“As hydropower went away, the water right went away because the purpose changed,” Clymer explained.


In 1993, Clymer said Nebraska Public Power District officials—on behalf of the City of Gothenburg—applied for surface water rights again but the issue is still unresolved.

These days, he said the city pumps about 300 acre-feet of groundwater yearly to keep the lake full.

In the agreement, Miller and Associates will complete an application for the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to impound water at Lake Helen.

The firm will coordinate with Nebraska Public Power District to gather existing dam, lake and spillway data.

Although hourly rates are listed in the agreement, the time involved is not.

Through the years, silt has filled much of the lake since it was dredged in 1977. Shallow water, warmer temperatures and high concentrations of nutrients have caused fish kill and a toxic algae to bloom.

City and council officials have discussed restoration of the lake and funding sources with state agency representatives.

Resolving surface rights could help obtain funding.

On another matter, the council discussed repaving Lake Avenue, between Fourth and Seventh Streets, but took no action.

Two estimates of work, one which involves narrowing the street, were presented by Travis Miller of Miller & Associates.

Both would remove old paving, install new concrete and replace a water line.

However a $368,164 estimate would narrow the street, from 41 to 32 feet, and eliminate on-street parking.

Clymer pointed out that motorists rarely park on that stretch of road now.

The council discussed whether or not a narrower road would cause difficulty for trucks turning onto Lake Avenue from Fourth Street.

Miller said the street could be flared.

Concern was also voiced about a narrower width for farm equipment.

“If we give it up (width), we can’t get it back,” said councilman Gary Fritch.

The city would pay for the reconstruction of driveways within city right of way.

The other estimate— $414,800—is $46,000 more and would keep the width of roadway the same.

Council president Jeff Kennedy said the council needs to chip away at needed street projects.

“With bidding favorable, I think we need to do it,” Kennedy said. “If the water line needs fixed, then fix it.”

Clymer said money has been budgeted for the work which will be bid in January or February.

Council members decided to revisit the issue at their Dec. 6 meeting.

In other business, the council:

granted a request to block portions of 10th Street, Avenue F, Ninth Street and Lake Avenue, in front of Gothenburg State Bank, for a hay rack ride for youngsters on Thursday, Dec. 1, during Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Magic event.

passed a resolution, stating that electoral districts in the city will remain unchanged based on 2010 census numbers.

approved a resolution that directs the sale of city property at a Nov. 26 sale at Brott’s consignment auction.

The action is necessary because the value of the property may exceed $5,000.

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