State project that drained Wagon Train Lake is over, but drought may keep water levels low
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A major $2 million project in a recreation area southeast of Lincoln saw water levels in Wagon Train Lake fall.
A sign stands guard over a beach without water, announcing rules to swimmers who haven’t been here for around a year. It’s the aftermath of a project to drain water from the lake and pull sediment from the bottom.
“We had accumulated almost 110,000 yards of sediment,” said Jeff Jackson, the aquatic habitat program manger for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “And to put that into perspective, that would be a football field piled up about 70 feet.”
It was about 23 years of build up.
“These reservoirs will eventually completely fill in with sediment,” Jackson said.
And that sediment makes it harder for the lake to serve its primary function: to mitigate flooding in the Lincoln area. The sediment means there is less room for flood water to funnel into the lake.
But the project has made it harder for the lake’s second purpose, which is serving as a hub for recreation. Water flowing through the outlet structure means the lake is down about 12 to 15 feet across its 315 acres.
“If you look on that riprap, you can kind of see where the water hits, where the riprap kind of changes color there,” Jackson said. “So yeah, we have a ways to come up yet.”
Now, the park is fully back open for recreational use, but the boat ramp isn’t functional yet. And it could take years before the fish, which were introduced to the lake in the fall after the previous fish were killed off, are back to their previous numbers.
As for the water level, Jackson said they’re waiting for rain.
“We do have the outlet structure closed now, so we can capture any rain,” he said. “But we have not seen much rain in the spring yet.”
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