Olsson Associates

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Cozad Canal project aims to conserve water, enhance stream flows

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kevin Prior, PE, Public Infrastructure

Before and after photos of canal constructionConstructed more than 100 years ago, the Cozad Canal system in and near Cozad, Nebraska, was due for an upgrade. Blocked by foliage, broken down in places, and requiring numerous safety enhancements, the system overseen by the Central Platte Natural Resources District (NRD) needed help.

Cozad Canal background

The Cozad Canal diversion is located on the Platte River approximately two miles west of Gothenburg, Nebraska, and provides irrigation water to lands north of and surrounding Cozad. The canal converges with the Dawson County Canal east of Cozad. The earliest water right held by the Cozad Ditch Company dates back to 1894. The Central Platte NRD executed a long-term lease with the Cozad Ditch Company to develop a conjunctive management project for enhancing stream flows on the Platte River.

Cozad Canal today

The Central Platte NRD hired Olsson in 2012 to complete a preliminary feasibility study to identify the work required to rehabilitate the canal and extend the life of the Ditch Company. Following the preliminary report, the Central Platte NRD acquired funds from the Platte Basin Habitat Enhancement Project Fund to complete the work. 

The Cozad Canal project includes repairing and replacing canal structures, which includes checks, farm crossings, and a significant amount of brush removal, including many large trees. The work also includes repairing and grading canal banks, replacing siphons, protecting from erosion, and making safety improvements. When complete, the canal system will include new flume gates and meters that will automatically control, measure, and record flow through the gates. The cost of the estimated improvements is $7,739,800.

Rehabilitating the canal will also allow a much more efficient use of the existing Cozad Canal water rights and allow some of the water rights to enhance the Platte River stream flow. The project, once completed, is estimated to return 8,000 acre-feet of water to the Platte River during times of target flow shortages each year.

Olsson continues to assist the Central Platte NRD and the Cozad Ditch Company with the survey, design, and construction phases of the work. Work on the project is scheduled to be completed by April 30, 2014.

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