Flooding from a later June deluge in southwest Nebraska could have been much worse if not for the watershed control structures in Hayes and Hitchcock counties, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
NRCS, with assistance from the Middle Republican Natural Resources District, constructed flood control structures throughout Lincoln, Hayes, Hitchcock, Frontier and Red Willow counties through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act. These funds helped fund the planning and installation of flood control structures like small dams and grade stabilization structures, and in applying conservation practices like no-till, terraces and waterways.
The Middle Republican NRD sponsored the project and purchased the land rights in order to build the dams. NRCS provided nearly $3.4 million to construct the 11 dams in the Blackwood Creek watershed.
These structures and field conservation practices work together throughout the watershed to catch and slow runoff from heavy rains.
Several of these structures do not look like a typical dam, and many do not even hold water, says Arlis Plummer, NRCS hydraulic engineer. But after a heavy rain event the structures capture rushing flood water and hold the water back allowing it to be slowly released downstream. Slowing the water down and allowing it to be gradually released reduces damage to roads, cropland, fences and other property.
According to Plummer, the existing flood control structures in Hayes County helped prevent $576,500 in flood damages from the recent storm.
Ron Thompson, NRCS resource conservationist in the Hayes Center field office, says, "Even though several county roads are washed out across the county, and there is a lot of hail damage, it could have been much worse if these flood control structures had not been here."
With nearly 900 watershed dams constructed statewide, the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act has benefited over 1.6 million acres, according to NRCS. Benefits include significant savings in soil erosion, water conservation, road and bridge damage reduction, wetland/upland wildlife habitat creation and most importantly, saved lives and property. The total benefits to Nebraska exceed $27 million each year.