Nebraska’s Spencer Dam will not be rebuilt in wake of historic 2019 flood

The Niobrara River will flow freely into the Missouri River before reaching Gavins Point Dam.
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 10:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -The fate of a dam in northeast Nebraska Destroyed in 2019′s historic flooding has been decided. Millions in FEMA funds will be used to tear down the remains of Spencer Dam and it will not be rebuilt.

“We’ve done no work on it. We’ve left it intact the way it is as of March 2019,” said Mark Becker, with Nebraska Public Power District, noting there is a lot of work to be done. “It will take us some time,” said Becker. “Our engineers will have to go up and look at the remnants of what’s up there, get some estimates of how much has to be removed. They’ll look at existing plans and drawings of the facility to make a lot of determinations.”

Officials already determining it’s not worth rebuilding the dam.

“They hydro generated about 3 megawatts of electricity. It’s a very small part of our energy resource,” said Becker, adding the plan was to sell the dam even before the flooding hit. “Our plan was to close it down anyways and let someone else use it for recreational purposes.”

The Niobrara will flow freely into the Missouri River before reaching Gavins Point Dam, the last line of defense before heading south.

“Spencer Dam impounded less than 5-thousand-acre-feet of water when it was clear full. In contrast to Gavins Point alone impounds almost 400-thousand-acre-feet of water,” John Remus, chief of the Missouri River Basin Water Management.

The bottom line being the absence of Spencer Dam won’t be a threat to Gavins Point. “There was a rush of water in 2019,” said Remus. “The amount of water by the time it got Gavin’s Point was pretty insignificant.”

Remus is confident the Gavins Point Dam can handle whatever the Niobrara sends into the Missouri. “The next large flood that comes along Niobrara without Spencer Dam there — what we will miss is maybe that initial wave from the dam, but the same amount of water will be coming through no matter what,” said Remus.

Meanwhile the Niobrara River will continue to cut a new path, a maybe some new opportunities. “We want to clean that area up and get it back for potential use for the public along the river,” said Becker.

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