Loup Generator - Spring 2019

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A flood in mid-March breached the Loup Power District Canal, ripped away part of the shop at the Genoa Headworks, and destroyed a home. Read about the experience of Loup employees who tried to fight the flood and are now working to repair the damage it caused.


a publication of Loup Power District SPRING 2019



Genoa Headworks sustains

major damage in March flood



Larry Zach


Chris Langemeier

First Vice Chairman

Ross Knott

Second Vice Chairman

Alan Drozd


Dick Tooley


Rich Aerni

Robert Cerv

Jim Donoghue

Mike Fleming

Steve Heesacker


Neal Suess

President/ CEO

Walt Williams

Vice President,

Administrative Services/CFO

David Bell

Vice President,


Ron Ziola

Vice President, Engineering

Dan Hellbusch

Vice President, Operations

The Loup Generator is

published quarterly as a

service for Loup employees,

families, friends and


For feedback, story ideas

and submissions, contact:

Stacy Wemhoff

Communications Coordinator




watt we are

In the four-county area on a 115 kV line

My buddies and I travel along, always right on time.

Into substations filled with transformers, breakers and switches we arrive;

We can’t mess around here, because we leave on the 34.5.

We do require insulators on cross arms mounted on a pole;

We don’t want to take the chance of being grounded, we must reach our goal.

For we are sent out on lines that have no end;

Naturally, to satisfy all our customers is our trend.

We enter your home on a line that’s very well fused;

Just there waiting to prove we are wanting to be used.

Even if we are in the 110, 220, or the 440-yard dash;

You will find we don’t cost much in the line of cash.

All year long, be it workday, holiday, daytime or night;

With the flick of a switch, we can make dark become light.

We can heat your water, warm your home, or even keep it cool;

If we are not insulated, don’t touch us — is a very good rule.

With a record on your stereo, we can make it play or sing;

All of this is because we enjoy doing our thing.

Now — what are we??

We are your friends, the watts;

And a thousand of us will make a kilowatt.

— Eldon Sorensen

The above poem was written by Loup Power District’s undercover poet, Eldon

Kenneth Sorensen of Genoa.

Eldon, a dragline operator at the Genoa Headworks, was born

of Danish descent in Lindsay on March 27, 1917, to Albert and

Christina Sorensen.

Eldon began writing poetry when he was a child going to country

school. One day, the young lad, Eldon, received a letter from his

girl-cousin in Minnesota. The letter contained a poem written

by his cousin, and Eldon answered her poem with one he had

written. Ever since then, Eldon has been writing poems about

farming, his work, and his friends.

Eldon was a Navy man for three years during World War II,

stationed with the PT fleet in New Guinea and the English



After 28-year-old Eldon was discharged from the service in 1945,

he farmed for seven years. Then he worked as a mechanic for

A. Clawson and V. J Shanahan of Genoa for 11 years. Eldon has been working with the Loup

Power District canal maintenance crew for the past seven years.

His two main hobbies are golfing and bowling, and Eldon notes that his bowling game is

a little better than his golfing average. He bowls for Wheelers Transport and in the Friday

Night Mix at Genoa. Eldon is also a substitute for Westring and Sons, Inc. Bowling Team.

Poet Sorensen is a hard-working employee and a strong promoter of the electric power

industry — he will soon move into a new all-electric home that he is having built.

— from the July 1971 issue of the Loup Generator


Historic flood breaches canal,

damages Genoa Headworks

Historic flood waters devastated much of

the state last month, including Loup Power

District’s service area.

Flooding occurred in all areas served by

the District. The St. Edward substation and

subtransmission lines south and west of

Columbus were damaged.

However, the most significant damage

was to the Headworks and canal system.

During the evening hours of March 12 and

morning hours of March 13, rain and snow

began to fall throughout Nebraska.

Many areas of Nebraska became

concerned about potential flooding due to

a combination of warm temperatures, rain

runoff and snow melt, ice jams, and frozen

ground that was unable to absorb water.

Officials with the City of Columbus and Platte County

were concerned enough — especially with the large ice

jam on the Loup River south of Columbus — that they

contacted the District and asked us to divert as much

water as possible into the canal at the Headworks.


Late in the day, the ice cap the District forms at the

Headworks, which is used to divert water into the canal

during the winter, broke up due to the rain fall and

warmer temperatures.

As night approached, District personnel noticed

increasing water flows in the Loup River — much

greater than the designed capacity of the canal. As

higher and higher water flows continued, District

personnel started sandbagging efforts at the Headworks

intake structure, in order to help prevent more water

from flowing into the Canal.


In the early morning hours, it became apparent that

all personnel at the Headworks needed to evacuate for

safety reasons. Around 2 a.m., District operators at the

Columbus Powerhouse noticed unusually large flows

into the Canal and were unsure of the ongoing issues.

Around 3 a.m., the District implemented the

Emergency Action Plan, developed for emergencies

associated with the hydroelectric system. Individuals



living in the High Hazard area near Genoa and

areas in the southern part of the town were

evacuated because of flooding.

By daybreak, the District was aware of the

significant flooding at the Headworks area and

knew of at least one breach to the canal system,

near the Highway 22 bridge south and west of



District personnel were able to get to the

Headworks area and begin to assess the damage

to the Headworks and Canal with the help

of a helicopter. They found massive damage.

Two breaches near the intake structure were

allowing uncontrolled water to flow into the

Canal from the Loup River.

In addition, there were six breaches of the canal that

were allowing the water in the canal to flow onto the

low-lying areas and fields near the Headworks.

The good news is that all District personnel are safe.

We did lose the caretaker house at the Headworks, but

Andy Zarek and his family are safe and we are working

with them to develop a temporary living solution.

District personnel, working with several contractors

and the Nebraska National Guard are working on

temporary repairs. Initial damage estimates sent to the

emergency management agencies for both temporary

and permanent repairs are approximately $25 million.

It will also take several months, if not years, to make

finalized repairs.

This event has been difficult on all District personnel,

but we will survive this and become stronger in the

end. These events show the destructive nature of our

industry, so we always need to maintain a safe working

environment, which our employees always have.

The District wants to extend thanks to everyone for

their help, especially Preferred Sands of Genoa and the

Nebraska National Guard.

This is a short update, and more information will

be coming out in the weeks and months ahead. Please

keep up with the various social media outlets, such as

Facebook, for more timely updates as we work toward


SPRING 2019 3



Loup employees were on the site of the new

Columbus Service Center March 1 to pull cable.

The building is located just south of Lost Creek

Parkway and east of Monastery Road.

The building will be completed this fall.


County payments total

more than $2 million

Loup Power District delivered

its inside revenue payments and

the second half of the “in-lieuof-tax”

payment to the counties it


This is a benefit of being served

by a locally controlled, not-forprofit


Like other businesses, Loup

Power District pays sales tax,

gasoline taxes, motor vehicle

license fees and permit fees.

The “in-lieu-of-tax” payments

are made to service area counties

in lieu of occupation, personal

property and real estate taxes.

County treasurers distribute the

funds to the various taxing bodies

in each county.

2018 in-lieu-of-tax payments:

Platte — $4,856.89

Boone — $2,539.17

Nance — $3,222.92

Colfax — $120.24

Madison — $179.63

Total — $10,918.85

The District also makes

additional payments to the

counties to guarantee they receive

5 percent of the inside revenues

from the various towns in their

areas subject to the in lieu-of-tax


Additional payments for 2018:

Madison — $39,505.60

Platte — $1,660,207.47

Nance — $128,233.70

Colfax — $93,275.56

Boone — $198,411.86

Total — $2,119,634.19

Communities receive

lease payments

Loup officials presented lease payment checks to area

communities in February and March. Each of these communities

owns their electric distribution systems. These payments

compensate them for the use of those systems.

Communities use the funds for a variety of public projects.

Primrose — $3,953.35

St. Edward — $48,024.40

Humphrey — $36,111.55

Cornlea — $3,199.66

Monroe — $20,328.87

Tarnov — $2,446.67

Platte Center — $18,345.39

Petersburg — $25,348.33

Columbus — $844,077.98

Genoa — $11,735.00

Creston — $5,488.30

Second Half of 2018

Albion — $121,366.54

Cedar Rapids — $39,102.03

Richland — $6,833.24

Belgrade — $8,332.13

Fullerton — $76,421.56

Duncan — $32,584.46

Howells — $48,323.93

Clarkson —$48,604.65

Fourth Quarter of 2018

Lindsay — $44,063.86

Leigh — $10,341.62

Newman Grove — $16,515.41

Loup renews



Loup Power District renewed its

membership in Community Clubs and

Chambers of Commerce in towns throughout

its service area.

Checks totaling $30,414 were presented to

communities in Boone, Colfax, Nance, Platte,

and Madison counties. Payment amounts are

based on the 2018 gross revenues inside each


Albion Chamber — $1,598

Cedar Rapids Community Club — $488

Clarkson Commercial Club — $611

Columbus Area Chamber — $21,385

Fullerton Chamber — $1,097

Genoa Chamber — $797

Howells Community Club — $634

Humphrey Community Club — $670

Lindsay Community Club —$1,421

Leigh Community Club —$100

Newman Grove Community Club — $605

Petersburg Community Club — $313

Primrose Community Club — $100

St. Edward Community Club —$595

SPRING 2019 5


‘We were in awe’

Flood estimate tops $20M

The before and after photos illustrate the

destructive power of water and ice.

A home lost. A building damaged. Earth

and concrete moved with apparent ease.

Water everywhere. It seemed unbelievable.

The water began rising March 13.

Loup Power District employees tried to

fight Mother Nature with sandbags and

determination. But in the end, they had to


“We didn’t win this battle,” said Andy

Zarek. “We’ll get the next one.”

‘A recipe for disaster’

Zarek began working for Loup Power

District 20 years ago at the age of 18.

Three years ago, he was named Headgates

Operator and moved with this family to a

District-owned home on the site.

He knows the river can behave badly

this time of year. He watches it daily.

Listens to weather reports. Monitors the


Weather reports warned of a bomb

cyclone that was forecast to hit much of

Nebraska. The explosive storm, fueled by

rapidly dropping atmospheric pressure,

would hit like a winter hurricane. Still,

Zarek wasn’t overly worried.

On Monday, March 11, Loup employees

broke up ice around the intake gates with

dynamite and a crane. They noticed it was

unusually thick — about two feet in spots.

Usually, the weather warms up a bit

in February, melting and breaking the

river ice cap slowly. But this February was

unusually cold. And early March followed

suit, roaring in like a lion.

Then, the forecast for Wednesday,

March 13, called for highs around 60 °F

with some heavy rain.

“That’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

‘Way more than we expected’

The Loup Power canal and two

powerhouses were constructed in the

1930s with a $7.3 million loan and grant

from the Public Works Administration.

The Genoa Headworks serves as the

beginning of Loup’s canal system. Gates

are adjusted as needed to direct the proper

amount of water from the Loup River into

the canal.

More than 80 years of ice jams and

heavy rains and snow melt have passed

through the canal. Only once, in August

of 1966, did those waters cause any

substantial damage.

Heavy rain filled the Loup River and

spilled over the intake structure. The

water flowed north and traveled along the

side of the canal before washing out a road

and going back into the canal.

It also washed out two bridges and

damaged a number of transmission lines.

The District’s dredge — used to clean

sediment from the two-mile settling

basin at the start of the canal — washed

downstream until it hit a tractor. The

impact was nearly $600,000 — about $4.4

million in today’s dollars.

But that was more than 50 years ago.

For the last 26, Randy Prososki has also

watched over the river and canal. He took

over as Headworks Supervisor last October

following the retirement of Gary Pearson.

Every year, the ice jams break up and

go down river.

“We were prepared for the ice to go

out of the river like it does every year,”

Prososki said.

And that’s what happened on the

afternoon of Wednesday, March 13. The

first ice jam broke and went through the

canal at around 3:30 p.m., followed by

a second around 5 p.m. Then Prososki

headed home.

Zarek watched the ice go through the

canal. It was a little thicker than usual

and bent up a few of the gate arms, but

he figured they could be replaced. He still

wasn’t overly concerned, but asked his

wife and two children to stay in Genoa

with family. Better to err on the side of


Before and after aerial drone photos: The top photos show the north side canal breach and damage

to the shop, boiler room and home at the Genoa Headworks.

The bottom two photos show damage on the south side of the canal. Photos by Aric Alt.

SPRING 2019 7

The ice jam at the Highway 22 bridge.

A third jam came through around

7 p.m. Zarek sent a video to Prososki,

who was alarmed at what he saw.

Still, the jam passed and the river

quieted down. But the water kept

rising and Zarek became uneasy.

He knew there must be an ice jam

causing the water to back up.

Prososki made his way back to the


“It was just way more than we

expected,” he said.

The water kept rising and around

9:30 that evening, Prososki called

employees asking them to help


“We couldn’t handle it anymore,”

he said.

‘The approach disappeared’

Jesse Hoffmeister joined the Genoa

Headworks maintenance crew in

January. He worked his shift that

Wednesday, leaving at 4 p.m.

He made it home to St. Edward,

about 10 miles north of the

Headworks, only to find that the

Beaver Creek was over its banks and

flooding the town.

As a member of the volunteer fire

department, he began helping rescue

stranded residents. He made it home

around 9:45 p.m. when he got the call

from Prososki asking for help.

Because of the Beaver Creek

flooding, he couldn’t take his normal

route back to work. Instead, he

traveled northwest to Albion and then

back south and east.

When he arrived at the Headworks

around 11:30 p.m., he voiced his

disbelief at the amount of water. The

veteran employees told him it had


been like this before. Everything

would be okay.

Hoffmeister and the other

employees began sandbagging the

intake structure approach.

“We thought we were getting

ahead of it,” he said.

Suddenly, they heard a pop and

ran about 30 yards toward the shop.

“The light pole just started

falling over and the whole approach

disappeared,” Hoffmeister said.

John Fritzges, like Hoffmeister,

is new to his job. He is also on the

maintenance crew and was a few

weeks away from his one-year

anniversary when he got the call

asking him to sandbag.

“The most unnerving thing was

just watching that approach go in

after we had just gotten off of it,” he


Zarek said the 10-man crew just

couldn’t keep up with the rising river.

“We tried for three hours, but it

just wasn’t enough,” he said.

‘It was a nightmare’

The water successfully breached on

the north side of the intake structure.

“It washed out all the concrete

and dirt and made a 30-foot waterfall

until it ate out enough to drain

the river through the whole canal

system,” Zarek said.

Employees knew they had to leave

quickly. The water was starting to

flow north to Preferred Sands and

they realized Headworks Park was

going to flood as well, blocking their


Prososki ensured the crew got out

of the area and told them to head

Flooding at Headworks Park.

home while he stayed to watch over

the Headworks. About 1:30 a.m. on

Thursday morning, he saw the intake

structure walls begin to fully give way

to the river.

A boiler room sits on the edge of

the canal. Crews use it to steam ice

from the gates in winter. Prososki

watched the water consume it, too,

before deciding it was time to go.

He drove over ice chunks to make

it to the highway. There, he waited

for daylight and prayed the canal

wouldn’t breach in Genoa, about five

miles to the northeast.

Meanwhile, Zarek was trying to

make it to Genoa. The familiar, short

trip took almost an hour and a half

because the Beaver Creek flooding

made its way downstream from St.


He went west to Fullerton and

north to Albion. Then he took gravel

roads back to St. Edward and Genoa,

making it into town around 2 a.m.

Top left: A breach by the Highway 22 bridge.

Photo by Aric Alt.

Middle left: A home at the Headworks was destroyed in

the flood. Headgates Operator Andy Zarek lived in the

home with his family.

Top right: Flood waters ripped off an addition to the

Headworks Shop.

Middle right: Derek Stankoski with Preferred Sands helps

close a canal breach.

Below: The weir bridge was ripped away during flooding,

leaving crews with no way to make it to the south side of

the canal. Photo by Aric Alt.

SPRING 2019 9

An hour later, Loup officials

activated the Emergency Action

Plan, which called for evacuations

of residents in the high-hazard area

near the canal.

By 3:30 a.m., Zarek, also a

volunteer firefighter, began knocking

on doors just as the storm’s winds

and snow hit the area.

“We were sandbagging in t-shirts.

Two hours later, everybody was

looking for coveralls and winter coats

because it’s snowing and blowing,”

Zarek said. “It was a nightmare.”

‘Never in my lifetime’

At daybreak on Thursday, March

14, Prososki was able to make it to

the Highway 22 bridge, a few miles

southwest of Genoa, where he saw a

large breach.

He and other employees were

anxious to survey damage at the

Headworks, but the roads to get there

were washed away. Fierce winds

prevented helicopters and drones

from flying.

By Friday morning, those winds

died down and helicopter pilot Kim

Wolfe flew a few employees to the

Headworks for the first time since

Wednesday night.

They found six breaches, including

two gaping holes on each side of

the intake structure. Zarek’s home

tipped into the canal. The parking lot

missing. A 2016 addition to the shop

ripped off. The weir bridge gone.

“We were all in awe,” said

Dan Hellbusch, Vice President of


Prososki said the damage was

There is a light at the

end of this tunnel.

devastating. “I would have never

in my lifetime thought this would

happen,” he said.

It was especially so for Zarek,

whose work and home lives mesh in a

unique way at the Headworks.

“You can’t go home because it’s

gone,” he said.

Then, he gestures to the canal and


“This is like a second home and

it’s partly gone,” he said. “Where

do you start? What do you do? It’s


‘We could fill a need’

The intake structure, emblazoned

with the year 1936, stood its ground

during the barrage — a testament

of Loup’s history and strength,

encouragement to those looking


And that’s exactly what employees

did as soon as they saw the damage.

“We started piecing things

together and getting a plan of what

we were going to do,” Zarek said.

There wasn’t really much time

for decisions, Hellbusch said. “We

just knew we needed to get the water

stopped,” he said.

But first, crews had to get to

the Headworks. The roads were


It was a problem echoed across the

state as county after county declared

emergencies due to catastrophic

flooding. Rivers broke levees and

washed out roads.

Despite the losses, Nebraska

Strong became a mantra that

motivated and inspired people to aid

their neighbors, near and far. The

same held true for the Headworks’

neighbor, Preferred Sands.

The company’s sand processing

plant sits just over the hill to the

north of the Headworks. It purchases

sand dredged from the canal’s

settling basin and produces silica

sand and resin-coated products.

Production Manager Keith Ferris

was at the Preferred site that

Wednesday evening, keeping an eye

on things. When the power went out,

he knew it meant trouble for Loup.

Ferris has a close connection to the

Headworks. He grew up in the area.

His father, Lance, works for Loup. His

great-grandfather did as well.

“I know if we needed help, they’d

help us,” he said.

Plant Manager Scott Teigen said it

didn’t take long for Ferris to suggest

they help their neighbors.

“Keith jumped in and realized we

have a dozer, we have the excavators

and we have the trucks,” he said. “We

could easily fill a need.”

The plant closed due to flooding

and power loss. Both Preferred and

the Headworks lost power because

of damage to two substations along

the canal and power poles near the

Highway 22 breach.

Right: A Black Hawk helicopter drops sandbags into the south-side canal breach. The National Guard used 280 sand bags to fill the gap.

Below: National Guard Soldiers prepare to drop sandbags into the breach.


Far left: A 1,500-pound

sandbag is carried by a


Left: Dalton Osantowski, a

certified rigger with Flat River

Corp. helps Maintenance

Man Jesse Hoffmeister and

Equipment Operator Joe

Kleckner load sand into a

conveyor to fill sandbags.

The National Guard required

that a certified rigger be at the

site during the operation.

SPRING 2019 11

On Saturday, Preferred employees

created a makeshift road from their

plant over the sand pile so they could

drive their trucks to the Headworks.

Later that day, they began hauling

dirt and rock to help fill the northside

canal breach. The river was still

high and it felt like a losing battle at

first, the water washing away their


But they persisted, emptying large

40-ton dump trucks with each load,

finally closing the gap on Tuesday,

March 18.

“The guys don’t have to be here,”

Ferris said. But they wanted to help.

“There is a light at the end of this


‘You just react and pray’

The Loup River was still flowing in

and out of the canal through another

two major breaches — one on the

south side of the intake structure and

another near the Highway 22 bridge

that was causing damage to Highway


The weir bridge washed away

during the flood so there was no easy

way to get equipment to the south

side of the canal.

By the weekend, flooding was

affecting additional portions of the

state. The Nebraska National Guard

dropped sandbags near Ashland to

protect water wells used by the city of


That sparked an idea for Ron Ziola,

Vice President of Engineering.

He began making calls, starting

with the Nebraska Department of

Natural Resources. Staff members

there directed him to the Army Corps

of Engineers who offered to arrange

a helicopter and get large, vertical lift

sandbags for the District.

Preferred Sands also had extra

sandbags on site that they brought

to the Headworks. They hauled sand

in their trucks while Loup employees

filled the 1,500-pound sandbags with

the help of a belt conveyor on loan

from Preferred.

Everything was on track until

District managers received word

that requests for assistance must

come through Nebraska Emergency

Management Agency (NEMA).


Top: Equipment Operator Jack Jones

(left) and Randy Prososki assess damage

at the Headworks.

Left: National Guard soldiers rig up an

ATV to carry to the south side of the


Below: Headworks crews filled the north

side breach with the help of employees

from Preferred Sands.

Opposite page: Headgates Operator

Andy Zarek and Maintenance Man John

Fritzges climb a ladder to the intake

structure to make their way to the south

side of the canal.

There, they retrieved the slings used to

carry the sandbags by the helicopter.

SPRING 2019 13

Denise Ziemba, Region 44

Emergency Manager, was a little

more than six months into her

new role as Region 44 Emergency

Manager, when the flooding hit. She

studied, prepared and planned as

much as possible in those months.

“I don’t think any plan could

prepare you for what would happen,”

she said. “You just react and pray that

the decisions you’re making are the

right ones,” she said.

Ziemba helped coordinate the

earlier evacuations of Genoa and was

working through disaster relief in

Boone, Merrick and Nance Counties.

She was also in contact with Ziola,

and Neal Suess, Loup President/CEO,

trying to get damage cost estimates

as well as updates on efforts to fill

the breaches.

Ziemba agreed the District needed

sandbags to help fill the main

south side breach and called NEMA

requesting aid.

On Thursday, a week after the

breach, two Black Hawk helicopters

landed at the Headworks with 18

Nebraska National Guard soldiers

who were ready to help.

The National Guard worked for

three days to fill the breach, finishing

on Saturday, March 23. It took 280


Preferred employees continued to

haul sand and rebuild the permanent

road that runs from Headworks

Park along the canal to the shop.

Koch Excavating and Bygland Dirt

Contracting, Inc., were also working

on roads in the area.

Crews restored power to the

Headworks and Preferred Sands on

Wednesday, March 27, with the help

of Schmader Electric.

Preferred employees helped close

the large breach by the Highway 22

bridge on Friday, March 29.

And on Saturday, March 30, Loup

employees got their first chance to

rest after working every day for more

than two weeks.

‘A long road ahead’

District personnel are now

working to turn temporary fixes into

permanent repairs.

The canal walls need riprap. Crews

have to build a new bridge. The

dredge took on water during the flood

Top: The canal breaches and sandbags at the Genoa Headworks. Nebraska National

Guard photo by Army Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.

Bottom: One Nebraska National Guard Black Hawk helicopter begins to lift a

sandbag while another waits.

and has two motors to be replaced.

The flood damage estimate sits

somewhere between $20 and $25


Hellbusch said this damage is more

extensive than that sustained in the

flood of 1966 and will take more time.

The weather conditions also affect


The 1966 flood followed heavy

rains during an August drought.

This storm hit as the rainy season

is just beginning. In the first few

weeks following the flood, there was

more rain and clouds than sun.

“We’ve got a lot more obstacles to

fight,” he said.

The District’s two powerhouses

were not damaged in the flood

and Loup continued to generate


“We continued generating to lower

water levels to alleviate flooding,”

said Hydro Superintendent Brad


Above: Staff Sgt. Joseph Yates looks out the door of his UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during sandbagging operations March 23.

Nebraska National Guard photo by Army Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.

Top right: Heavy Equipment Operator Kurt Mohr reinforces the sandbag dike on the south side of the canal.

Bottom right: A National Guard Chinook helicopter carries a Bobcat loader to the south side of the canal. Photo by Dan Hellbusch.


While the emergency was

overwhelming at times, Hellbusch

said Loup employees always jump

in and get right to work following

storms. He’s seen it time and again in

his 34 years with the company.

“It’s all we’ve ever done,” he said.

“Everybody is willing to pitch in and


Zarek said working 12-hour days

for weeks with his coworkers was

difficult, but they helped each other

through the struggle.

“It’s like a family,” he said.

Prososki knows it’s a long road,

but he is quick to put the fight into

perspective. Loup Power isn’t alone

in trying to recover from a historic


NEMA estimates that 95 percent

of Nebraskans were affected by the

March storms.

“We had a family that lost

everything they owned. Other families

did, too,” he said. “Everybody’s had a

loss of some kind.

Despite his loss, Zarek remains

upbeat and positive that things will

get back to normal.

“We’ll get this back together and

life will go on. It will look great,” he


“We just need a little time.”

by Stacy Wemhoff | swemhoff@loup.com

SPRING 2019 15

around the District


The Clarkson Opera House has

hosted dances, talent shows, concerts

and receptions for more than 100


“It’s a great old building,” said

Chuck Hamernik.

He’s a member of The Clarkson

Community Opera House, Inc., a

nonprofit organization that formed in

2002 to ensure that the Opera House

will host events for years to come.

The history of the Opera House

dates back to the late 1800s when

a fraternal organization formed in

Clarkson. They met in businesses

around town before building their

own hall in 1891.

As the Western Bohemian Fraternal

Association (Zapadni Cesko Bratrska

Jednota) grew in membership it

outgrew the building.

The new Opera House was built in

the fall of 1915 and the ZCBJ had its

first meeting there in January of 1916.

It began showing movies in 1930

and hosted many school events before

Clarkson’s modern high school was

constructed in 1952.

The Lion’s Club leased the Opera

House from 1958 through 1961 and

continued to show movies and host

public gatherings.

VFW Cornhusker Post 6419 took

over the lease in 1961 and took care of

the building for 40 years.

When the VFW and Ladies

Auxiliary decided they couldn’t

maintain the building due to their

advanced ages, the nonprofit group

stepped in to take over.

With the help of donations, the

group has updated and maintained

the building for the last 16 years.

Hamernik said they added central

air conditioning and new windows

and refinished the floors several


Another big project is restoring the

hand-painted curtains. One has been

completed with seven remaining. The

curtains are in fairly good shape with

a bit of water damage. They were

painted in the 1920s and 30s.

The Opera House is listed on the

National Register of Historic Places in

Nebraska. It continues to be the site

of community events and hosted the

Glen Miller Band, a Beatles tribute

band, and Elvis impersonator in the

last few years.


Above: The Opera House featured eight hand-painted curtains. This is the first to

be restored and was painted in 1929. It features Svatopluk, a Moravian king who

ruled in the late 800s. His three sons wanted to split the kingdom so they could

each rule a portion.

The curtain features the legend of the three twigs. Just before his death, Svatopluk

asked his sons to come to him and to bring twigs. He asked his sons to break a

single twig, which they did easily. He then bundled the sticks and asked them to

break the bundle, which was not possible.

“The moral of the story is, ‘Stay together and you’ll be strong. If you’re an individual,

you’ll be easily broken,’ “ said Chuck Hamernik, who serves as Clarkson’s mayor

and helps maintain the Opera House.

The brothers did not listen, fighting for control of the throne following Svatopluk’s

death. Their division lead to the fall of the Moravian Empire.

Top right: Hamernik lowers a curtain at the Opera House.

Bottom right: One of eight curtains at the Opera House awaiting restoration.

Below: A view of the Opera House from the balcony. A gymnastics class meets

there a few times a week.

The Opera House is open by appointment.


340 Pine St., Clarkson, Neb.


SPRING 2019 17

employee notes


Customer Service Supervisor

20 years

Jon Blaser of rural Columbus joined Loup in 1999 as Accountant/Collector at the

Columbus General Office. He was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor in 2016.

As Customer Service Supervisor, Blaser’s responsibilities include supervision in the

areas of customer services, meter reading, and billing.

A graduate of Monroe High School, Blaser earned an Associate of Applied Science

Degree in Accounting from Lincoln School of Commerce.

Blaser and his wife, Gina, are the parents of three children — Jessica, Connor, and


10 Years


Heavy Equipment Operator

Andy Schmidt joined Loup in

2009 as a Maintenance Man on

the Columbus Canal Crew. He was

promoted to Equipment Operator

in 2011 and was named Heavy

Equipment Operator in 2016.

As Heavy Equipment Operator,

Schmidt’s duties include canal

maintenance from Columbus to

Genoa. In addition to his work at

both the Columbus and Monroe

powerhouses, he runs the dragline

and operates the trash rake at


A native of Monroe, Schmidt is

a graduate of Monroe High School.

He and his wife, Stephanie, are the

parents of two daughters — Whitney

and Lindy.

10 years


Computer Support


Michael Jones of Columbus

joined Loup in 2009 as Computer

Support Specialist at the Columbus

General Office.

His duties include installing,

maintaining, and repairing

the computers, software, and

communications systems

throughout the District.

Jones was born in Columbus

and grew up in the Rockford,

Illinois, area. He graduated from

Harlem High School in Loves Park,

Illinois and studied Information

Technology-Electronic at Central

Community College-Columbus.

Jones and his wife, Beth, are the

parents of three sons — Benjamin,

Steven, and David.



Columbus Plant Operator

Jeremy Moore of Columbus joined

Loup Power District as a Plant Operator

at the Columbus Powerhouse.

As a plant operator, Moore monitors

and controls the three generation units

at Columbus and remotely controls the

Monroe Powerhouse. He also works

closely with the Genoa Headworks to

divert maximum Loup River water into

the District canal system for power

plant generation.

Moore’s other duties include

coordinating generation with NPPD’s

control center in Doniphan and

monitoring Loup’s 115 kV and 34.5 kV

subtransmission system.

Moore is a graduate of Cedar Rapids

High School. He and his wife, Carri,

have three sons — Talon, Parker, and




Columbus Service Center Coordinator

Sheila Sup has been promoted to Columbus Service Center Coordinator.

She joined Loup Power District in 2012 as a Customer Service Representative at the Albion

Office and remained in that position until this promotion.

As the Service Center Coordinator, Sup handles communication among the personnel at

the Service Center including linemen and meter and maintenance, shop, and canal crews.

Her duties include taking service calls, receiving locate requests, sending irrigation load

control messages and handling dispatches. She also prepares work tickets, service orders,

and reports.

Sup is a graduate of Boone Central High School. She attended the University of Nebraska-

Lincoln and earned a BA degree in Communication Studies.


Heesacker joins Loup Board

Steve Heesacker of Humphrey joined Loup Power District’s Board of

Directors in January.



Customer Service Rep

Natalie Sharman of Fullerton has

been promoted to a Full-Time Customer

Service Representative.

She has worked for more than three

years as part-time CSR in the St. Edward

Office. With this promotion, she now

serves in both the Fullerton and Albion


As a Customer Service Representative

Sharman’s responsibilities include

greeting customers; processing

payments; setting up, transferring, or

closing service; taking service calls; and

preparing reports.

Sharman is a native of Cambridge and

a graduate of Cambridge High School.

She studied business and marketing at

the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Sharman and her husband, Les, are

the parents of two children, Braden and

Kinzie. They also own Shamz Auto Body

in Fullerton.

He represents Subdivision 3,

which includes portions of

Platte and Colfax Counties.

Heesacker farms in the

Humphrey area and also

owns a realty and auction


He decided to run for the

open seat after a phone call

with retiring board member

Francis Sand.

“After the nice conversation

with him and some serious

thought, I decided to file,”

Heesacker said.

After filing for the open seat,

Heesacker began attending

Loup’s board meetings to

learn more about the District.

“I found it very interesting

and got more excited about being on the board,” he said.

He is looking forward to the completion of the new Columbus Service

Center and the economic development in that area.

While he still has a lot to learn about Loup, Heesacker said he believes

in the public power model.

“I want to continue making the right decisions to provide affordable,

reliable electricity,” he said.

SPRING 2019 19

employee notes


Equipment Operator


Ed Elm joined Loup in 1977 as a Maintenance Man at the Genoa Headworks. He was

promoted to Assistant Dredge Operator in 1979 and to Heavy Equipment Relief Operator in


In 1982, Elm transferred to Columbus and was promoted to Heavy Tractor Operator. His

title was changed to Equipment Operator in 1986 and he continued in that position until

his retirement.

As an Equipment Operator, Elm operated the District’s heavy equipment and was part

of the crew that performs maintenance on the canal system from Genoa to Columbus. He

also worked at the two powerhouses when needed, helped build substations, and took care

of District parks and lakes.

Elm is a graduate of Genoa High School and attended Central Community College–

Columbus. He and his wife, Christine, are the parents of three sons: Adam, Austin, and


5 Years


Journeyman Lineman

Brandon Ramaekers joined Loup

Power District in 2014 as a Lineman

on the Columbus Line Crew at the

Columbus Service Center.

He was promoted to Journeyman

Lineman in 2016.

As a Journeyman Lineman,

Ramaekers is a member of the

line crew that is responsible for

the construction, operation, and

maintenance of Loup’s electrical

transmission and distribution system

in the Columbus Division.

A graduate of Norfolk Catholic

High School, Ramaekers earned an

Associate of Applied Science Degree

in Utility Line from Northeast

Community College in Norfolk.



Maintenance Man

Jesse Hoffmeister of St. Edward

joined Loup Power District as a

Maintenance Man at the Genoa


In his new position,

Hoffmeister is responsible for

maintaining the District’s parks,

facilities and equipment. He also

assists equipment operators and

serves as a dredge deck hand

during the dredging season at the

Genoa Headworks.

Hoffmeister is a graduate of St.

Edward High School. He and his

wife, Haylee, have two sons —

Mason and Ryker.

1 year


Customer Service Rep

Cindy Gasper of Columbus

joined Loup Power District as a

Customer Service Representative

at the Columbus General Office in


Gasper’s responsibilities

include greeting customers,

processing payments, setting up

and closing service, and answering

phone calls.

Gasper is a native of Humphrey.

She and her husband, Greg, have

four children: Lindsey, Levi,

Mikayla, and Michael.

Gasper has owned Party Palace

in Columbus for 21 years.



find the answers with


Our new online Energy Advisor energy calculator

is accessible from your computer or mobile device

at www.loup.com.

The tool offers a detailed report of your energy use

including month-to-month comparisons, plus tips

for no-cost and low-cost home improvements to

help you stretch your energy dollars.

Follow the tips below to get started.

1: Take a quick survey

Visit www.loup.com and find the Home Energy

Advisor link under the “Save Money” menu.

Take a few minutes to tell us about your home. Is it

large or small? Well-insulated or under-insulated?

How many people are living there? What appliances

are drawing on electricity, and how is your

thermostat typically set?

After clicking,

“Calculate,” you’ll

instantly receive a

detailed breakdown of

the energy consumption

in your home.

2: Explore your energy use

Colorful charts and

graphs explain where your actual energy dollars are

going and how your usage has changed over time.

Discover opportunities for

improvement with

customized energy-saving


based on

your survey


All of the tips are

easy and cost little

or no money to


Best of all, Energy

Advisor will tell

you exactly how

much you could


3: Find easy ways to save

SPRING 2019 21


Trees that grow into or near power lines can

threaten the safety and reliability of your electric

service. They can cause sparks, fires, and power


This is especially true with storms that bring

lighting, wind or ice.

Before you plant trees, take a look around to see

how they will affect overhead utility lines as they


Planting tall-growing trees under utility lines will

require Loup personnel to prune them to maintain

safe clearance.

Where you plant trees can also affect

temperatures in your home.

Deciduous trees on the south, east and west sides

of your home will provide cooling shade in the


They will lose their leaves in the winter, allowing

the sun to warm your home in the cooler months.

Evergreen trees and shrubs can also help you save

energy by slowing cold winter winds.

How tall will your tree grow? A good rule of

thumb is to plant it at least that far from the

utility lines.

10' 20' 30' 40' 50' 60' 70'



No trees within

25' of power lines



Plant trees less than 25'

in height/spread

at least 25' from

power lines



Plant trees 25'–40' in

height/spread at least

40' from overhead

power lines



Plant trees larger than

40' in height/spread at

least 60' from overhead

power lines



The Headworks crew took advantage of a beautiful

January day to lower the dredge discharge pipelines.

Employees raised the piplines over the years as sand

piled up. Preferred Sands removed much of the sand in

the area, prompting the need to lower them again.

Doing so prevents the swirling water from washing away

the pilings.

At left, Kenton Zimmer and John Fritzges work on one of

the pipelines. Pictured above are a pipeline that is being

lowered and one that is finished.


The barrell pontoons that hold the dredge’s floating

pipeline are aging and need to be replaced.

There aren’t any available locally, so the Headworks crew

is making their own.

At left, Bob Anderson grinds areas on the new pontoon

that need to be welded. There are 10 pontoons that need

to be replaced.

SPRING 2019 23

2404 15th Street | PO Box 988

Columbus, NE 68602-0988

Nebraska Army National Guard riggers, Staff Sgt.

William Cozad, Sgt. Luis Rocha, and Spc. Jacob Mason

inspect a Bobcat loader prior to sling load operations

at the Genoa Headworks on March 26.

The riggers were part of a team that prepared the

loader for air transport to the south side of the canal.

Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.

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