NRCS and NRDs Continue Successful Partnership on Dam Assessments

NRCS and NRDs Continue Successful Partnership on Dam Assessments

Thursday, January 25, 2024

LINCOLN, Nebraska – To ensure water infrastructure safety, Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) and other sponsors continue a strong partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on several dam assessments across the state.

In 2023, 18 floodwater reduction dam assessments were completed with seven NRDs – Lower Big Blue, Lower Elkhorn, Lower Platte South, Nemaha, North Platte, Papio-Missouri River, and Upper Niobrara White. The cities of Bayard, Plattsmouth, Gordon, and the Pathfinder and Farmers Irrigation Districts were also joint local partners.

Dam assessments are detailed inspections that analyze the current hazard classification, determine if the dam meets current design standards and evaluate if any deficiencies are present. In some cases, corrective actions may be listed to address deficiencies or to meet design standards. Dam assessments are funded under the NRCS Watershed Rehabilitation Program, which was authorized in 1981.

“NRCS is pleased to provide technical and financial assistance to partners like NRDs, communities and others for addressing dam safety,” said Nebraska State Conservationist Rob Lawson. “Our purpose is to help local sponsors identify any needed improvements to ensure long-term structural integrity.”

NRCS’s first focus is to complete assessments on dams that provide flood protection upstream of towns and cities. Because of their location, these structures are classified as “high hazard” by the state of Nebraska and thus receive top priority for review.

“Local sponsors have done a great job operating and maintaining dams over the years; however, repairs or alterations may be needed as infrastructure ages,” said NRCS Dam Safety Engineer Bob Sullivan. “Many of these structures were built 40 to 60 years ago.”

On behalf of participating NRDs, the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts (NARD) coordinates the dam assessments with NRCS and contracted with local engineering firms including JEO Consulting Group and Houston Engineering.

“We appreciate the excellent work of the NARD to coordinate these assessments with NRDs,” Lawson said. “This is a great example of federal, state, and local entities working together to accomplish mutual goals.”

“Completing these assessments is the first step in securing additional federal funding to help address any dam deficiencies that may be found,” said NARD President Dr. Orval Gigstad. “This program is vital in helping NRDs protect the lives, property, and future of Nebraskans.”

This partnership began in 2022 when nine dam assessments were completed across Nebraska.