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Bureau seeking comment for possible dam repairs at Box Butte Reservoir

Box Butte Dam Outlet
Water flows into the Niobrara River from the dam at Box Butte Reservoir. (Justin Haag/NEBRASKAland Magazine)

The Bureau of Reclamation is seeking comment regarding an environmental assessment document for the dam at Box Butte State Recreation Area north of Hemingford. Engineers have identified problems with sedimentation through the dam’s toe drain – a perforated pipe that runs along the base of the earthen dam to collect water from the reservoir’s seepage and move it to the downstream side of the embankment.

The bureau prepared the draft to evaluate environmental consequences of undertaking corrective actions to the dam. The goal is to reduce the risk of dam failure and maintain it at satisfactory levels for its variety of uses.

Among the bureau’s three listed alternatives are to, one, take no action and continue monitoring the dam; two, to replace the toe drain on the dam; and, three, to permanently restrict the reservoir to an elevation of 3,995 feet.

The dam at Box Butte Reservoir, which is situated along the Niobrara River, is used for both irrigation and recreation. As of Jan. 11, its elevation was 3,999 feet – just over 60 percent capacity under current guidelines.

Comments will be received through Feb. 12. They may be sent by mail to the Bureau of Reclamation, Attn: Lucas Milheiser; at 1706 W. 3rd St., McCook, NE 69001. Comments may also be submitted through the online comment portal on the project website, http://www.usbr.gov/gp/nkao/nepa/box_butte.html.

The document is also available by hard copy by contacting Milheiser at (308) 345-8323.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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