NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - NPPD encourages the use of water systems for recreation, but urges users to be cautious around water. There is a great opportunity for fishing with over 100 miles of canal with every type of fish Nebraska has to offer. Having fun is important, but being safe is a priority.
The tail race just before water goes back into the South Platte River is no exception to the safety rules for fishing the over 100 miles of the NPPD canal system in Western Nebraska. It's a popular fishing spot for anglers. NPPD encourages the recreational use of the water systems, but wants everyone safe. (KNOP-TV).
NPPD's water system, located in the western part of the state, includes Sutherland Reservoir, Lake Maloney, portions of Lake Ogallala and the 60 mile long Sutherland Canal. They are all open for public use and have become popular locations for recreational activities - primarily boating and fishing, along with swimming at designated location.
But canals are different, and they deserve a unique look concerning safety.
One of the favorite areas for fishing is along the Sutherland Canal. NPPD Director of Safety Chris Overman said, "We have had a few incidents where individuals have gone into the water along the canal system, for one reason or another, and have been unable to get out on their own due to the steep banks of the canal." The end result has been rescue efforts by local emergency responders.
Because of the steep banks and swift water, no wading, boating or watercraft are permitted in the canal. Those anglers fishing from the banks are encouraged to wear life jackets and should be there with a partner or let someone know where they are fishing.
The tail race below the North Platte Hydroelectric Plant is no exception. This is the area north of State Farm Road (after the water goes through the plant), just before the water goes into the South Platte River. There is no boating or swimming in that area allowed due to the fast current.
Bob Keller of NPPD said, "You don't get a second chance sometimes around water, and if you get int he canal system, you're going to find that you can't swim nearly as good as you think you can."
He says NPPD likes to see the anglers up on top the bank on the flat areas, rather than on the slopes of the canal. He says with the steep banks it can be hard to get back up, and if you fall in the water - it is swift moving water and with the debris and undertows it is just too dangerous.
He says the structures which are associated with the canal system's construction are dangerous, as well.
He recommends a life jacket, cell phone for emergencies, and take a buddy along so you aren't relying on yourself if you do fall in the water. And don't forget your fishing license.
Another big problem is pets. He says please tie up pets and don't let them run wild. He said pets getting into the canal is another thing where people think they need to go in after a pet. He said, "Dogs can swim, they'll get back to the bank. They'll get themselves out. It's one of the issues we have. People go in to get their pets and they get themselves in trouble."
There is no fishing allowed from State Farm Road south to the North Platte Hydroelectric Plant because it is too dangerous.
"We want people to enjoy the facilities we have up and down the canal system, and the lakes, but we want you to enjoy them safely and have a good time using them," added Keller.
The system was put into place back in the 1930's for electrical generation, energy, surface irrigation, and recreation - from fishing, boating, skiing, swimming - but in the canals - "Keep your body out of the canals," said Keller.
You can visit http://outdoornebraska.gov for water safety and regulations for use of the water systems.