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Loup hydroelectric repairs ongoing
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Loup hydroelectric repairs ongoing

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Loup Power District is working to complete $700,000 in repairs to an intake wing wall swept away by floodwaters last spring.

“We’re hopeful that the wing wall will be up sometime later on this fall,” Loup Power District President/CEO Neal Suess said.

The project is located southwest of Genoa, near the Loup Power District headworks diversion structure where the power district’s hydroelectric system begins and water from the Loup River is diverted into the Loup Canal.

The wing wall that is being rebuilt leads up to the north end of the intake structure gates, beyond which the Loup Canal begins. Loup Power District Vice President of Operations Dan Hellbusch said the wing wall helps keep sand from building up and blocking the gates of the intake structure.

Hellbusch said the gates themselves are not part of the repairs, but 2019 floodwaters overtopped the concrete wing wall and toppled it.

“We made an earthbound temporary wing wall so we can function – it’s like a huge dike – when we plugged that north breach,” Hellbusch said.

Two buildings right by the wing wall were also destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

Suess said the contract to repair the wing wall was approximately $700,000. The wing wall damage has impacted the amount of water the intake structure can handle, which has hurt the power district’s revenue.

“Because we haven’t been able to bring the normal amount of water in, our revenue is down,” Suess said. “We rely on that revenue to offset some of our expenses.”

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Losing that revenue has been a struggle for the power district, Suess said.

“We estimated about $4 or $5 million last year of revenue lost," he said. "We were able to get by, we’ve got some reserves and that helped out, we’ve cut some costs here. To the extent that we will get money back from FEMA, that will help, when that happens."

Money has been slow to come in from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), but during the Tuesday morning meeting of the Loup Power District Board of Directors, Hellbusch said a lot of that is because NEMA is understaffed and overwhelmed in the wake of the widespread 2019 storm damage.

So far, the power district has spent over $6 million repairing storm damage – and the $700,000 cost of the wing wall is not included in that figure.

Following the flooding, Loup estimated that repairs may end up costing between $15 and $20 million, Suess said. And that doesn’t include the costs that may be introduced by a remediation plan required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC has asked the power district to put together a remediation plan for preventative measures to mitigate future damage like that sustained during the flood. The district, Suess said, is only in the beginning stages of doing that.

“In other words, if we have another high flow event, what can we do to manage it – that’s really what the remediation plan is,” Suess said. “We really have just started to get into the basics of that. We’ll have a lot of conversations with the federal government on that as we move forward.”

Suess said Loup will also work on the plan with Olsson, an engineering and design firm based in Lincoln, which has been working with the power district since last year to deal with the storm and flood damage.

Suess said the costs of repairs have been less than expected so far, though remediation costs may temper that. However, Suess said the district hopes to receive funding assistance through the state’s remediation plan.

“For sure we’re going to be in the $10 million-plus range before we get done with it all,” Suess said. “And that doesn’t include the lost revenue, which we can’t recoup.”

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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