NEBRASKAland July 2018

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 42 of 59

JULY 2018 • NEBRASKAland 43 their own use. In 1910, they reached an agreement with the village of Spalding to expand generation and supply electricity to the town. On Feb. 1, 1911, electricity began lighting the homes and businesses there from 6-8 a.m and 6-10 p.m., except on dance night, when the lights stayed on until midnight. A concrete dam and new wheelhouse, which continues to supply 13 percent of the electricity used by the 452 villagers, were built in 1913. A power plant that contained diesel- powered generators was built in 1919 to provide electricity 24 hours a day. It was expanded in 1924 and again in 1949 and today can provide emergency power to the town. The current dam, 165 feet long and 10 feet high, was built in 1923. Together, the structures that make up the Spalding Power Plant and Dam, owned by the village since 1954, were included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Mother Nature and age have interrupted operations at the dam many times in its history. A major flood in 1966 damaged the operation. Through the years, sediment filled the lake behind the dam, rendering the hydroplant inoperable and forcing its shutdown in 1993. A 1994 Nebraska Environmental Trust grant helped rebuild the dam and remove sediment, a project that was slowed by a 1995 flood and completed in 1998, bringing the hydroplant back online. The dam is the first a fish will encounter on the river above its confluence with the Loup River at Fullerton. Below the dam, catfish are plentiful. But they have been found to be abundant above the dam on other occasions as well. A 1969 netting survey by Commission biologists found numerous channel catfish in the Cedar River both above and below the dam. That survey and the fish it found above the dam may have been related to damage caused by flooding in 1966, but village officials aren't certain as to the timeline of the repairs and whether the fish were swimming through open flood gates at the time. Regardless, reading that 1969 survey report piqued the interest of Steve Schainost, the Commission's Rivers and Streams Program manager based in Alliance, and got him thinking about the possibilities of creating a fish bypass. In 2002, Schainost set nets above and below the dam. In the reach above it, he caught only three catfish. Below it, with fewer nets, he caught 208. By happenstance, high water damaged the wheel house in September 2002 and forced a shutdown. With the gates open and the river flowing freely through the dam, catfish once again found their way upstream. Biologists captured 46 catfish in netting surveys in 2003. With operations back to normal, surveys found zero catfish above the dam in 2006 and 2007. "That just provided confirmation that it looked like the dam was blocking fish movement," he said. Schainost had already proposed building a fishway around the dam. With help from both Jim Kleffner – who has served as mayor and councilman – and the village board, Schainost requested a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust in 2001 to help construct it. The grant was Spalding Dam, located on Cedar River on the edge of the village of Spalding, has been harnessing the river's flow to create hydropower since the early 1900s. The dam forms a 30-acre lake open to fishing and no-wake boating. Spalding Dam Joe Bloom of Spalding reels in a catfish caught from the lake behind Spalding Dam, a body of water many locals called "the Dead Sea" before a fishway was built to allow fish a way to swim upriver past the dam.

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