In Nebraska, ‘tens of thousands’ of fish die after water diversion stoppage

All species present in the river were affected in the kill-off, one official says, including walleye.

COLUMBUS, Neb. — Officials say thousands of fish have died since a utility company was forced to stop diverting water from an eastern Nebraska river into its power canal.

The fish were killed after water flow from the Loup River to the Loup Public Power District’s canal shut off July 15, the Columbus Telegram reported.

As part of its updated license to operate the hydroelectric facilities, which include the 35-mile Loup Power Canal and powerhouses near Columbus and Monroe, the utility company must follow new rules outlined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

One of the commission regulations requires the utility to stop diverting water into the canal when the water temperature in the Platte River reaches 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The rule was created as a result of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials’ concern about the effects the water diversion has on protected species.

The utility stopped diversion for almost two days before the commission issued a temporary waiver July 17, allowing the water flow to resume. But without river water streaming those two days, the canal warmed up and dissolved oxygen levels dropped, killing the fish.

Jeff Schuckman, a regional fisheries manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Norfolk office, estimated the number of dead fish is in the “tens of thousands.”

“It was a very significant kill,” he said.

Schuckman said all species were affected, including catfish, crappie and walleye.

The G&PC has been reviewing the fish kill in the canal over the past week.

Loup Power’s temporary commission waiver remains in effect “until further order by the commission.”

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