Columbus, Neb. – The weather is improving just in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. And with warm weather comes the attraction of water for recreational activities - swimming, boating, and fishing – under hopefully, sunny conditions.
Water plays an integral part in Nebraska Public Power District’s electric generation system, whether it is for producing electricity by using water to turn turbines in a hydroelectric facility or for producing steam for operations in coal and nuclear power plants. At the same time, the District is urging boaters to be aware of the possible transportation of an invasive species that could impact those operations.
NPPD’s water system located in the western part of the state, which includes Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney and the 60 plus mile long Sutherland Canal system, are also popular locations for recreational activities. And the District encourages the use of its water facilities for recreation, but also urges users to be cautious around water.
“One of the favorite areas for fishing is along the Sutherland Canal,” said NPPD Director of Safety Chris Overman, “but we have had a few incidents where individuals have gone into the water, for one reason or another, and have been unable to get out due to the steep banks of the canal.”
And because of those steep banks and swift water, no wading, boating or watercraft are permitted in the canal. Anglers fishing from the banks are advised to wear life jackets and should be there with a partner or let others know where they are fishing. Emergency buoys with ropes are also located at regular intervals along the canal to help in any rescue effort.
Another location that does not allow for boating or swimming is the tail race below the North Platte Hydroelectric Plant due to the fast current. Swimmers and boaters are also prohibited from accessing areas near canals, flow-control devices and any posted areas.
On Sutherland Reservoir and Lake Maloney, NPPD urges boaters to operate their equipment in a safe manner and to check boating regulations required by the Nebraska Game and Parks at http://outdoornebraska.gov/boatingregulations/ .
“We have buoys that mark areas that restricted to boating,” Overman added. “We ask boaters to observe caution signs and speed limits on the water and wear life jackets while on or near the water at all times. At NPPD, we value safety, and never want to see a member of the public injured or worse while enjoying the recreational benefits of NPPD’s facilities.”
At the same time, NPPD asks boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats to avoid contaminating waters, such as Sutherland Reservoir and Lake Maloney, with zebra mussels. This small creature, that looks like a snail or clam, can be destructive, eventually clogging up intake pipes used for bringing water into treatment or power plants, with the cost running into the millions of dollars in eliminating them.
Zebra mussels tend to move from one body of water to another, usually by boat, and move from lake to lake when certain precautions are not taken. That is where clean, drain and dry are important.
Tips for preventing zebra mussels from being introduced into Nebraska bodies of water are available through the Nebraska Invasive Species Program at www.neinvasives.com.