You’re probably not thinking about public power as you water ski across Lake Maloney. Or as you reel in a beautiful rainbow trout at Lake Ogallala; or bike the Kearney Canal Trail; or while you’re camping at the Sutherland State Recreation Area.
Nebraska Public Power District’s 63-mile long Sutherland Project, built in the 1930s, provides water from the North and South Platte Rivers, that is used for generating electricity, irrigation, ground water recharge and recreation. These reservoirs, lakes and canals are available for public use for activities like biking, hiking, boating, camping, bird watching, fishing and hunting. NPPD partners with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to operate parks, recreational and wildlife areas.
“When I’m on social media and I see photos of kids with grins from ear to ear, holding a fish or swimming with their families at one of the recreation sites we provide, that makes my day,” says Courtney Dentlinger of NPPD, which is the sixth-largest public power utility in the country.
NPPD’s reservoirs and canals not only provide water for irrigation and recreation needs, but its primary use is in the generation of electricity at Gerald Gentleman Station and for hydropower generation – a clean, renewable and environmentally friendly electricity that is part of bringing a reliable source of power to customers across the state.
While water has always played a key role in electrical generation, NPPD makes irrigation water available through the Dawson County, Gothenburg and Kearney canals that help irrigate 45,000 acres of cropland in the Platte Valley, adding millions of dollars annually to the value of crops in those areas. In times of drought, stored water from reservoirs is crucial for Nebraska farmers.
Water moving through the Sutherland Project eventually returns to the Platte River where it is used by a variety of avian and aquatic species and wildlife, including Sandhill Cranes, which use the Platte River valley as a rest stop during their annual spring migration to vast breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.
“NPPD helps manage habitat for threatened and endangered species and are active participants in the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program,” says NPPD Director of Corporate Environment and Water resources Joe Citta. “It’s important that we are good stewards of the environment, which is one of our core values. Our 1,900 employees are focused on using our water resources responsibly and protecting the environment throughout our day-to-day operations.
“And we hope the public enjoys the fun in the sun at our public recreation facilities, too.”