Friday, October 31, 2014
   
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Cozad Canal undergoes rehabilitation

Increased flows, endangered species protection goal.

Passersby on south Cottonwood Drive may have noticed backhoes and other equipment cleaning debris from the Cozad Canal several weeks ago.

What may not be noticeable is ongoing construction near the head gates of the canal about a quarter mile east of the Highway 47 bridge that spans the channel.

These and other improvements are a result of Central Platte Natural Resources District partnering with the Cozad Ditch Company two years ago to manage the canal and lease surface water.

The Cozad Canal has supplied water to Platte Valley irrigators for nearly 120 years.

“It’s part of our efforts to increase Platte River flows and protect endangered species,” said CPNRD general manager Lyndon Vogt.

Specifically, near the head gates, workers from Simon Contractors of North Platte are reconstructing a gate that diverts flow from the Platte River into the Cozad Canal.

After diversion, Vogt said the water can either be routed down the canal or measured and returned to the river and sold to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

The program helps meet the endangered species requirements of the cooperative program that involves three Platte River Basin states—Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the federal government.

During wet years when flows are in excess of U.S. Fish and Wildlife target flows for endangered species, Vogt said additional water would be diverted to recharge groundwater and supplement return flows to the river.

Dry years mean more water will be left in the river to help meet target flows and for other users.

Vogt said rehabilitation of the Cozad Canal is expected to cost $7.7 million and be completed by the end of April or first couple of weeks in May.

Phase III of the project, which is going on now, includes 35 structures, walkways, head gates, grading and seeding.

The Cozad Canal, which has diverted Platte River water since 1894, begins at the head gates in Gothenburg and continues to 10 miles east of Cozad.

The Thirty-Mile Canal, which starts southeast of Brady and ends at the I-80 Darr exchange, is also seeing improvements.

That project, which is a partnership between CPNRD and the Thirty Mile Canal Company, is estimated to cost $4.6 million and has 52 structures.

Those include bridges siphons and culverts that will be replaced.

After 116 years of use, landowners and farmers involved with the Six-Mile Canal, partnered with the NRD and the canal was closed and filled in with dirt.

NRD officials said farmers along the Six Mile were eager to convert their land to groundwater irrigation.

The Six-Mile Canal used to start five miles west of Gothenburg on the south side of the interstate and returned to the river south of town.

Other benefits to partnering with the Cozad canal and other systems, Vogt said include:

protecting water supply for surface water and groundwater users

helping to meet a legislative requirement to return the Platte River to its 1997 level of use which is 3,400 acre feet

meeting additional legislative requirements to return the area above Elm Creek to a “fully appropriated” from an “over appropriated” condition.

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