Loup Generator - Spring 2019

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 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.

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a publication of <strong>Loup</strong> Power District SPRING <strong>2019</strong><br />

canal<br />

BREACH<br />

Genoa Headworks sustains<br />

major damage in March flood

BOARD<br />


Larry Zach<br />

Chairman<br />

Chris Langemeier<br />

First Vice Chairman<br />

Ross Knott<br />

Second Vice Chairman<br />

Alan Drozd<br />

Secretary<br />

Dick Tooley<br />

Treasurer<br />

Rich Aerni<br />

Robert Cerv<br />

Jim Donoghue<br />

Mike Fleming<br />

Steve Heesacker<br />


Neal Suess<br />

President/ CEO<br />

Walt Williams<br />

Vice President,<br />

Administrative Services/CFO<br />

David Bell<br />

Vice President,<br />

Development/Marketing<br />

Ron Ziola<br />

Vice President, Engineering<br />

Dan Hellbusch<br />

Vice President, Operations<br />

The <strong>Loup</strong> <strong>Generator</strong> is<br />

published quarterly as a<br />

service for <strong>Loup</strong> employees,<br />

families, friends and<br />

associates.<br />

For feedback, story ideas<br />

and submissions, contact:<br />

Stacy Wemhoff<br />

Communications Coordinator<br />

402-562-5711<br />

swemhoff@loup.com<br />


watt we are<br />

In the four-county area on a 115 kV line<br />

My buddies and I travel along, always right on time.<br />

Into substations filled with transformers, breakers and switches we arrive;<br />

We can’t mess around here, because we leave on the 34.5.<br />

We do require insulators on cross arms mounted on a pole;<br />

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

For we are sent out on lines that have no end;<br />

Naturally, to satisfy all our customers is our trend.<br />

We enter your home on a line that’s very well fused;<br />

Just there waiting to prove we are wanting to be used.<br />

Even if we are in the 110, 220, or the 440-yard dash;<br />

You will find we don’t cost much in the line of cash.<br />

All year long, be it workday, holiday, daytime or night;<br />

With the flick of a switch, we can make dark become light.<br />

We can heat your water, warm your home, or even keep it cool;<br />

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

With a record on your stereo, we can make it play or sing;<br />

All of this is because we enjoy doing our thing.<br />

Now — what are we??<br />

We are your friends, the watts;<br />

And a thousand of us will make a kilowatt.<br />

— Eldon Sorensen<br />

“<br />

The above poem was written by <strong>Loup</strong> Power District’s undercover poet, Eldon<br />

Kenneth Sorensen of Genoa.<br />

Eldon, a dragline operator at the Genoa Headworks, was born<br />

of Danish descent in Lindsay on March 27, 1917, to Albert and<br />

Christina Sorensen.<br />

Eldon began writing poetry when he was a child going to country<br />

school. One day, the young lad, Eldon, received a letter from his<br />

girl-cousin in Minnesota. The letter contained a poem written<br />

by his cousin, and Eldon answered her poem with one he had<br />

written. Ever since then, Eldon has been writing poems about<br />

farming, his work, and his friends.<br />

Eldon was a Navy man for three years during World War II,<br />

stationed with the PT fleet in New Guinea and the English<br />

Channel.<br />


After 28-year-old Eldon was discharged from the service in 1945,<br />

he farmed for seven years. Then he worked as a mechanic for<br />

A. Clawson and V. J Shanahan of Genoa for 11 years. Eldon has been working with the <strong>Loup</strong><br />

Power District canal maintenance crew for the past seven years.<br />

His two main hobbies are golfing and bowling, and Eldon notes that his bowling game is<br />

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

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

Poet Sorensen is a hard-working employee and a strong promoter of the electric power<br />

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

— from the July 1971 issue of the <strong>Loup</strong> <strong>Generator</strong>


Historic flood breaches canal,<br />

damages Genoa Headworks<br />

Historic flood waters devastated much of<br />

the state last month, including <strong>Loup</strong> Power<br />

District’s service area.<br />

Flooding occurred in all areas served by<br />

the District. The St. Edward substation and<br />

subtransmission lines south and west of<br />

Columbus were damaged.<br />

However, the most significant damage<br />

was to the Headworks and canal system.<br />

During the evening hours of March 12 and<br />

morning hours of March 13, rain and snow<br />

began to fall throughout Nebraska.<br />

Many areas of Nebraska became<br />

concerned about potential flooding due to<br />

a combination of warm temperatures, rain<br />

runoff and snow melt, ice jams, and frozen<br />

ground that was unable to absorb water.<br />

Officials with the City of Columbus and Platte County<br />

were concerned enough — especially with the large ice<br />

jam on the <strong>Loup</strong> River south of Columbus — that they<br />

contacted the District and asked us to divert as much<br />

water as possible into the canal at the Headworks.<br />


Late in the day, the ice cap the District forms at the<br />

Headworks, which is used to divert water into the canal<br />

during the winter, broke up due to the rain fall and<br />

warmer temperatures.<br />

As night approached, District personnel noticed<br />

increasing water flows in the <strong>Loup</strong> River — much<br />

greater than the designed capacity of the canal. As<br />

higher and higher water flows continued, District<br />

personnel started sandbagging efforts at the Headworks<br />

intake structure, in order to help prevent more water<br />

from flowing into the Canal.<br />


In the early morning hours, it became apparent that<br />

all personnel at the Headworks needed to evacuate for<br />

safety reasons. Around 2 a.m., District operators at the<br />

Columbus Powerhouse noticed unusually large flows<br />

into the Canal and were unsure of the ongoing issues.<br />

Around 3 a.m., the District implemented the<br />

Emergency Action Plan, developed for emergencies<br />

associated with the hydroelectric system. Individuals<br />

by NEAL SUESS<br />

President/CEO<br />

living in the High Hazard area near Genoa and<br />

areas in the southern part of the town were<br />

evacuated because of flooding.<br />

By daybreak, the District was aware of the<br />

significant flooding at the Headworks area and<br />

knew of at least one breach to the canal system,<br />

near the Highway 22 bridge south and west of<br />

Genoa.<br />

FRIDAY, MARCH 15<br />

District personnel were able to get to the<br />

Headworks area and begin to assess the damage<br />

to the Headworks and Canal with the help<br />

of a helicopter. They found massive damage.<br />

Two breaches near the intake structure were<br />

allowing uncontrolled water to flow into the<br />

Canal from the <strong>Loup</strong> River.<br />

In addition, there were six breaches of the canal that<br />

were allowing the water in the canal to flow onto the<br />

low-lying areas and fields near the Headworks.<br />

The good news is that all District personnel are safe.<br />

We did lose the caretaker house at the Headworks, but<br />

Andy Zarek and his family are safe and we are working<br />

with them to develop a temporary living solution.<br />

District personnel, working with several contractors<br />

and the Nebraska National Guard are working on<br />

temporary repairs. Initial damage estimates sent to the<br />

emergency management agencies for both temporary<br />

and permanent repairs are approximately $25 million.<br />

It will also take several months, if not years, to make<br />

finalized repairs.<br />

This event has been difficult on all District personnel,<br />

but we will survive this and become stronger in the<br />

end. These events show the destructive nature of our<br />

industry, so we always need to maintain a safe working<br />

environment, which our employees always have.<br />

The District wants to extend thanks to everyone for<br />

their help, especially Preferred Sands of Genoa and the<br />

Nebraska National Guard.<br />

This is a short update, and more information will<br />

be coming out in the weeks and months ahead. Please<br />

keep up with the various social media outlets, such as<br />

Facebook, for more timely updates as we work toward<br />

recovery.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 3



<strong>Loup</strong> employees were on the site of the new<br />

Columbus Service Center March 1 to pull cable.<br />

The building is located just south of Lost Creek<br />

Parkway and east of Monastery Road.<br />

The building will be completed this fall.<br />


County payments total<br />

more than $2 million<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> Power District delivered<br />

its inside revenue payments and<br />

the second half of the “in-lieuof-tax”<br />

payment to the counties it<br />

serves.<br />

This is a benefit of being served<br />

by a locally controlled, not-forprofit<br />

utility.<br />

Like other businesses, <strong>Loup</strong><br />

Power District pays sales tax,<br />

gasoline taxes, motor vehicle<br />

license fees and permit fees.<br />

The “in-lieu-of-tax” payments<br />

are made to service area counties<br />

in lieu of occupation, personal<br />

property and real estate taxes.<br />

County treasurers distribute the<br />

funds to the various taxing bodies<br />

in each county.<br />

2018 in-lieu-of-tax payments:<br />

Platte — $4,856.89<br />

Boone — $2,539.17<br />

Nance — $3,222.92<br />

Colfax — $120.24<br />

Madison — $179.63<br />

Total — $10,918.85<br />

The District also makes<br />

additional payments to the<br />

counties to guarantee they receive<br />

5 percent of the inside revenues<br />

from the various towns in their<br />

areas subject to the in lieu-of-tax<br />

payments.<br />

Additional payments for 2018:<br />

Madison — $39,505.60<br />

Platte — $1,660,207.47<br />

Nance — $128,233.70<br />

Colfax — $93,275.56<br />

Boone — $198,411.86<br />

Total — $2,119,634.19<br />

Communities receive<br />

lease payments<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> officials presented lease payment checks to area<br />

communities in February and March. Each of these communities<br />

owns their electric distribution systems. These payments<br />

compensate them for the use of those systems.<br />

Communities use the funds for a variety of public projects.<br />

Primrose — $3,953.35<br />

St. Edward — $48,024.40<br />

Humphrey — $36,111.55<br />

Cornlea — $3,199.66<br />

Monroe — $20,328.87<br />

Tarnov — $2,446.67<br />

Platte Center — $18,345.39<br />

Petersburg — $25,348.33<br />

Columbus — $844,077.98<br />

Genoa — $11,735.00<br />

Creston — $5,488.30<br />

Second Half of 2018<br />

Albion — $121,366.54<br />

Cedar Rapids — $39,102.03<br />

Richland — $6,833.24<br />

Belgrade — $8,332.13<br />

Fullerton — $76,421.56<br />

Duncan — $32,584.46<br />

Howells — $48,323.93<br />

Clarkson —$48,604.65<br />

Fourth Quarter of 2018<br />

Lindsay — $44,063.86<br />

Leigh — $10,341.62<br />

Newman Grove — $16,515.41<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> renews<br />

community<br />

memberships<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> Power District renewed its<br />

membership in Community Clubs and<br />

Chambers of Commerce in towns throughout<br />

its service area.<br />

Checks totaling $30,414 were presented to<br />

communities in Boone, Colfax, Nance, Platte,<br />

and Madison counties. Payment amounts are<br />

based on the 2018 gross revenues inside each<br />

community.<br />

Albion Chamber — $1,598<br />

Cedar Rapids Community Club — $488<br />

Clarkson Commercial Club — $611<br />

Columbus Area Chamber — $21,385<br />

Fullerton Chamber — $1,097<br />

Genoa Chamber — $797<br />

Howells Community Club — $634<br />

Humphrey Community Club — $670<br />

Lindsay Community Club —$1,421<br />

Leigh Community Club —$100<br />

Newman Grove Community Club — $605<br />

Petersburg Community Club — $313<br />

Primrose Community Club — $100<br />

St. Edward Community Club —$595<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 5


‘We were in awe’<br />

Flood estimate tops $20M<br />

The before and after photos illustrate the<br />

destructive power of water and ice.<br />

A home lost. A building damaged. Earth<br />

and concrete moved with apparent ease.<br />

Water everywhere. It seemed unbelievable.<br />

The water began rising March 13.<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> Power District employees tried to<br />

fight Mother Nature with sandbags and<br />

determination. But in the end, they had to<br />

concede.<br />

“We didn’t win this battle,” said Andy<br />

Zarek. “We’ll get the next one.”<br />

‘A recipe for disaster’<br />

Zarek began working for <strong>Loup</strong> Power<br />

District 20 years ago at the age of 18.<br />

Three years ago, he was named Headgates<br />

Operator and moved with this family to a<br />

District-owned home on the site.<br />

He knows the river can behave badly<br />

this time of year. He watches it daily.<br />

Listens to weather reports. Monitors the<br />

canal.<br />

Weather reports warned of a bomb<br />

cyclone that was forecast to hit much of<br />

Nebraska. The explosive storm, fueled by<br />

rapidly dropping atmospheric pressure,<br />

would hit like a winter hurricane. Still,<br />

Zarek wasn’t overly worried.<br />

On Monday, March 11, <strong>Loup</strong> employees<br />

broke up ice around the intake gates with<br />

dynamite and a crane. They noticed it was<br />

unusually thick — about two feet in spots.<br />

Usually, the weather warms up a bit<br />

in February, melting and breaking the<br />

river ice cap slowly. But this February was<br />

unusually cold. And early March followed<br />

suit, roaring in like a lion.<br />

Then, the forecast for Wednesday,<br />

March 13, called for highs around 60 °F<br />

with some heavy rain.<br />

“That’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.<br />

‘Way more than we expected’<br />

The <strong>Loup</strong> Power canal and two<br />

powerhouses were constructed in the<br />

1930s with a $7.3 million loan and grant<br />

from the Public Works Administration.<br />

The Genoa Headworks serves as the<br />

beginning of <strong>Loup</strong>’s canal system. Gates<br />

are adjusted as needed to direct the proper<br />

amount of water from the <strong>Loup</strong> River into<br />

the canal.<br />

More than 80 years of ice jams and<br />

heavy rains and snow melt have passed<br />

through the canal. Only once, in August<br />

of 1966, did those waters cause any<br />

substantial damage.<br />

Heavy rain filled the <strong>Loup</strong> River and<br />

spilled over the intake structure. The<br />

water flowed north and traveled along the<br />

side of the canal before washing out a road<br />

and going back into the canal.<br />

It also washed out two bridges and<br />

damaged a number of transmission lines.<br />

The District’s dredge — used to clean<br />

sediment from the two-mile settling<br />

basin at the start of the canal — washed<br />

downstream until it hit a tractor. The<br />

impact was nearly $600,000 — about $4.4<br />

million in today’s dollars.<br />

But that was more than 50 years ago.<br />

For the last 26, Randy Prososki has also<br />

watched over the river and canal. He took<br />

over as Headworks Supervisor last October<br />

following the retirement of Gary Pearson.<br />

Every year, the ice jams break up and<br />

go down river.<br />

“We were prepared for the ice to go<br />

out of the river like it does every year,”<br />

Prososki said.<br />

And that’s what happened on the<br />

afternoon of Wednesday, March 13. The<br />

first ice jam broke and went through the<br />

canal at around 3:30 p.m., followed by<br />

a second around 5 p.m. Then Prososki<br />

headed home.<br />

Zarek watched the ice go through the<br />

canal. It was a little thicker than usual<br />

and bent up a few of the gate arms, but<br />

he figured they could be replaced. He still<br />

wasn’t overly concerned, but asked his<br />

wife and two children to stay in Genoa<br />

with family. Better to err on the side of<br />

caution.<br />

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

to the shop, boiler room and home at the Genoa Headworks.<br />

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

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 7

The ice jam at the Highway 22 bridge.<br />

A third jam came through around<br />

7 p.m. Zarek sent a video to Prososki,<br />

who was alarmed at what he saw.<br />

Still, the jam passed and the river<br />

quieted down. But the water kept<br />

rising and Zarek became uneasy.<br />

He knew there must be an ice jam<br />

causing the water to back up.<br />

Prososki made his way back to the<br />

Headworks.<br />

“It was just way more than we<br />

expected,” he said.<br />

The water kept rising and around<br />

9:30 that evening, Prososki called<br />

employees asking them to help<br />

sandbag.<br />

“We couldn’t handle it anymore,”<br />

he said.<br />

‘The approach disappeared’<br />

Jesse Hoffmeister joined the Genoa<br />

Headworks maintenance crew in<br />

January. He worked his shift that<br />

Wednesday, leaving at 4 p.m.<br />

He made it home to St. Edward,<br />

about 10 miles north of the<br />

Headworks, only to find that the<br />

Beaver Creek was over its banks and<br />

flooding the town.<br />

As a member of the volunteer fire<br />

department, he began helping rescue<br />

stranded residents. He made it home<br />

around 9:45 p.m. when he got the call<br />

from Prososki asking for help.<br />

Because of the Beaver Creek<br />

flooding, he couldn’t take his normal<br />

route back to work. Instead, he<br />

traveled northwest to Albion and then<br />

back south and east.<br />

When he arrived at the Headworks<br />

around 11:30 p.m., he voiced his<br />

disbelief at the amount of water. The<br />

veteran employees told him it had<br />


been like this before. Everything<br />

would be okay.<br />

Hoffmeister and the other<br />

employees began sandbagging the<br />

intake structure approach.<br />

“We thought we were getting<br />

ahead of it,” he said.<br />

Suddenly, they heard a pop and<br />

ran about 30 yards toward the shop.<br />

“The light pole just started<br />

falling over and the whole approach<br />

disappeared,” Hoffmeister said.<br />

John Fritzges, like Hoffmeister,<br />

is new to his job. He is also on the<br />

maintenance crew and was a few<br />

weeks away from his one-year<br />

anniversary when he got the call<br />

asking him to sandbag.<br />

“The most unnerving thing was<br />

just watching that approach go in<br />

after we had just gotten off of it,” he<br />

said.<br />

Zarek said the 10-man crew just<br />

couldn’t keep up with the rising river.<br />

“We tried for three hours, but it<br />

just wasn’t enough,” he said.<br />

‘It was a nightmare’<br />

The water successfully breached on<br />

the north side of the intake structure.<br />

“It washed out all the concrete<br />

and dirt and made a 30-foot waterfall<br />

until it ate out enough to drain<br />

the river through the whole canal<br />

system,” Zarek said.<br />

Employees knew they had to leave<br />

quickly. The water was starting to<br />

flow north to Preferred Sands and<br />

they realized Headworks Park was<br />

going to flood as well, blocking their<br />

exit.<br />

Prososki ensured the crew got out<br />

of the area and told them to head<br />

Flooding at Headworks Park.<br />

home while he stayed to watch over<br />

the Headworks. About 1:30 a.m. on<br />

Thursday morning, he saw the intake<br />

structure walls begin to fully give way<br />

to the river.<br />

A boiler room sits on the edge of<br />

the canal. Crews use it to steam ice<br />

from the gates in winter. Prososki<br />

watched the water consume it, too,<br />

before deciding it was time to go.<br />

He drove over ice chunks to make<br />

it to the highway. There, he waited<br />

for daylight and prayed the canal<br />

wouldn’t breach in Genoa, about five<br />

miles to the northeast.<br />

Meanwhile, Zarek was trying to<br />

make it to Genoa. The familiar, short<br />

trip took almost an hour and a half<br />

because the Beaver Creek flooding<br />

made its way downstream from St.<br />

Edward.<br />

He went west to Fullerton and<br />

north to Albion. Then he took gravel<br />

roads back to St. Edward and Genoa,<br />

making it into town around 2 a.m.

Top left: A breach by the Highway 22 bridge.<br />

Photo by Aric Alt.<br />

Middle left: A home at the Headworks was destroyed in<br />

the flood. Headgates Operator Andy Zarek lived in the<br />

home with his family.<br />

Top right: Flood waters ripped off an addition to the<br />

Headworks Shop.<br />

Middle right: Derek Stankoski with Preferred Sands helps<br />

close a canal breach.<br />

Below: The weir bridge was ripped away during flooding,<br />

leaving crews with no way to make it to the south side of<br />

the canal. Photo by Aric Alt.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 9

An hour later, <strong>Loup</strong> officials<br />

activated the Emergency Action<br />

Plan, which called for evacuations<br />

of residents in the high-hazard area<br />

near the canal.<br />

By 3:30 a.m., Zarek, also a<br />

volunteer firefighter, began knocking<br />

on doors just as the storm’s winds<br />

and snow hit the area.<br />

“We were sandbagging in t-shirts.<br />

Two hours later, everybody was<br />

looking for coveralls and winter coats<br />

because it’s snowing and blowing,”<br />

Zarek said. “It was a nightmare.”<br />

‘Never in my lifetime’<br />

At daybreak on Thursday, March<br />

14, Prososki was able to make it to<br />

the Highway 22 bridge, a few miles<br />

southwest of Genoa, where he saw a<br />

large breach.<br />

He and other employees were<br />

anxious to survey damage at the<br />

Headworks, but the roads to get there<br />

were washed away. Fierce winds<br />

prevented helicopters and drones<br />

from flying.<br />

By Friday morning, those winds<br />

died down and helicopter pilot Kim<br />

Wolfe flew a few employees to the<br />

Headworks for the first time since<br />

Wednesday night.<br />

They found six breaches, including<br />

two gaping holes on each side of<br />

the intake structure. Zarek’s home<br />

tipped into the canal. The parking lot<br />

missing. A 2016 addition to the shop<br />

ripped off. The weir bridge gone.<br />

“We were all in awe,” said<br />

Dan Hellbusch, Vice President of<br />

Operations.<br />

Prososki said the damage was<br />

There is a light at the<br />

end of this tunnel.<br />

devastating. “I would have never<br />

in my lifetime thought this would<br />

happen,” he said.<br />

It was especially so for Zarek,<br />

whose work and home lives mesh in a<br />

unique way at the Headworks.<br />

“You can’t go home because it’s<br />

gone,” he said.<br />

Then, he gestures to the canal and<br />

shop.<br />

“This is like a second home and<br />

it’s partly gone,” he said. “Where<br />

do you start? What do you do? It’s<br />

tough.”<br />

‘We could fill a need’<br />

The intake structure, emblazoned<br />

with the year 1936, stood its ground<br />

during the barrage — a testament<br />

of <strong>Loup</strong>’s history and strength,<br />

encouragement to those looking<br />

forward.<br />

And that’s exactly what employees<br />

did as soon as they saw the damage.<br />

“We started piecing things<br />

together and getting a plan of what<br />

we were going to do,” Zarek said.<br />

There wasn’t really much time<br />

for decisions, Hellbusch said. “We<br />

just knew we needed to get the water<br />

stopped,” he said.<br />

But first, crews had to get to<br />

the Headworks. The roads were<br />

impassable.<br />

It was a problem echoed across the<br />

state as county after county declared<br />

emergencies due to catastrophic<br />

flooding. Rivers broke levees and<br />

washed out roads.<br />

Despite the losses, Nebraska<br />

Strong became a mantra that<br />

motivated and inspired people to aid<br />

their neighbors, near and far. The<br />

same held true for the Headworks’<br />

neighbor, Preferred Sands.<br />

The company’s sand processing<br />

plant sits just over the hill to the<br />

north of the Headworks. It purchases<br />

sand dredged from the canal’s<br />

settling basin and produces silica<br />

sand and resin-coated products.<br />

Production Manager Keith Ferris<br />

was at the Preferred site that<br />

Wednesday evening, keeping an eye<br />

on things. When the power went out,<br />

he knew it meant trouble for <strong>Loup</strong>.<br />

Ferris has a close connection to the<br />

Headworks. He grew up in the area.<br />

His father, Lance, works for <strong>Loup</strong>. His<br />

great-grandfather did as well.<br />

“I know if we needed help, they’d<br />

help us,” he said.<br />

Plant Manager Scott Teigen said it<br />

didn’t take long for Ferris to suggest<br />

they help their neighbors.<br />

“Keith jumped in and realized we<br />

have a dozer, we have the excavators<br />

and we have the trucks,” he said. “We<br />

could easily fill a need.”<br />

The plant closed due to flooding<br />

and power loss. Both Preferred and<br />

the Headworks lost power because<br />

of damage to two substations along<br />

the canal and power poles near the<br />

Highway 22 breach.<br />

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

Below: National Guard Soldiers prepare to drop sandbags into the breach.<br />


Far left: A 1,500-pound<br />

sandbag is carried by a<br />

telehandler.<br />

Left: Dalton Osantowski, a<br />

certified rigger with Flat River<br />

Corp. helps Maintenance<br />

Man Jesse Hoffmeister and<br />

Equipment Operator Joe<br />

Kleckner load sand into a<br />

conveyor to fill sandbags.<br />

The National Guard required<br />

that a certified rigger be at the<br />

site during the operation.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 11

On Saturday, Preferred employees<br />

created a makeshift road from their<br />

plant over the sand pile so they could<br />

drive their trucks to the Headworks.<br />

Later that day, they began hauling<br />

dirt and rock to help fill the northside<br />

canal breach. The river was still<br />

high and it felt like a losing battle at<br />

first, the water washing away their<br />

effort.<br />

But they persisted, emptying large<br />

40-ton dump trucks with each load,<br />

finally closing the gap on Tuesday,<br />

March 18.<br />

“The guys don’t have to be here,”<br />

Ferris said. But they wanted to help.<br />

“There is a light at the end of this<br />

tunnel.”<br />

‘You just react and pray’<br />

The <strong>Loup</strong> River was still flowing in<br />

and out of the canal through another<br />

two major breaches — one on the<br />

south side of the intake structure and<br />

another near the Highway 22 bridge<br />

that was causing damage to Highway<br />

39.<br />

The weir bridge washed away<br />

during the flood so there was no easy<br />

way to get equipment to the south<br />

side of the canal.<br />

By the weekend, flooding was<br />

affecting additional portions of the<br />

state. The Nebraska National Guard<br />

dropped sandbags near Ashland to<br />

protect water wells used by the city of<br />

Lincoln.<br />

That sparked an idea for Ron Ziola,<br />

Vice President of Engineering.<br />

He began making calls, starting<br />

with the Nebraska Department of<br />

Natural Resources. Staff members<br />

there directed him to the Army Corps<br />

of Engineers who offered to arrange<br />

a helicopter and get large, vertical lift<br />

sandbags for the District.<br />

Preferred Sands also had extra<br />

sandbags on site that they brought<br />

to the Headworks. They hauled sand<br />

in their trucks while <strong>Loup</strong> employees<br />

filled the 1,500-pound sandbags with<br />

the help of a belt conveyor on loan<br />

from Preferred.<br />

Everything was on track until<br />

District managers received word<br />

that requests for assistance must<br />

come through Nebraska Emergency<br />

Management Agency (NEMA).<br />


Top: Equipment Operator Jack Jones<br />

(left) and Randy Prososki assess damage<br />

at the Headworks.<br />

Left: National Guard soldiers rig up an<br />

ATV to carry to the south side of the<br />

canal.<br />

Below: Headworks crews filled the north<br />

side breach with the help of employees<br />

from Preferred Sands.<br />

Opposite page: Headgates Operator<br />

Andy Zarek and Maintenance Man John<br />

Fritzges climb a ladder to the intake<br />

structure to make their way to the south<br />

side of the canal.<br />

There, they retrieved the slings used to<br />

carry the sandbags by the helicopter.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 13

Denise Ziemba, Region 44<br />

Emergency Manager, was a little<br />

more than six months into her<br />

new role as Region 44 Emergency<br />

Manager, when the flooding hit. She<br />

studied, prepared and planned as<br />

much as possible in those months.<br />

“I don’t think any plan could<br />

prepare you for what would happen,”<br />

she said. “You just react and pray that<br />

the decisions you’re making are the<br />

right ones,” she said.<br />

Ziemba helped coordinate the<br />

earlier evacuations of Genoa and was<br />

working through disaster relief in<br />

Boone, Merrick and Nance Counties.<br />

She was also in contact with Ziola,<br />

and Neal Suess, <strong>Loup</strong> President/CEO,<br />

trying to get damage cost estimates<br />

as well as updates on efforts to fill<br />

the breaches.<br />

Ziemba agreed the District needed<br />

sandbags to help fill the main<br />

south side breach and called NEMA<br />

requesting aid.<br />

On Thursday, a week after the<br />

breach, two Black Hawk helicopters<br />

landed at the Headworks with 18<br />

Nebraska National Guard soldiers<br />

who were ready to help.<br />

The National Guard worked for<br />

three days to fill the breach, finishing<br />

on Saturday, March 23. It took 280<br />

sandbags.<br />

Preferred employees continued to<br />

haul sand and rebuild the permanent<br />

road that runs from Headworks<br />

Park along the canal to the shop.<br />

Koch Excavating and Bygland Dirt<br />

Contracting, Inc., were also working<br />

on roads in the area.<br />

Crews restored power to the<br />

Headworks and Preferred Sands on<br />

Wednesday, March 27, with the help<br />

of Schmader Electric.<br />

Preferred employees helped close<br />

the large breach by the Highway 22<br />

bridge on Friday, March 29.<br />

And on Saturday, March 30, <strong>Loup</strong><br />

employees got their first chance to<br />

rest after working every day for more<br />

than two weeks.<br />

‘A long road ahead’<br />

District personnel are now<br />

working to turn temporary fixes into<br />

permanent repairs.<br />

The canal walls need riprap. Crews<br />

have to build a new bridge. The<br />

dredge took on water during the flood<br />

Top: The canal breaches and sandbags at the Genoa Headworks. Nebraska National<br />

Guard photo by Army Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.<br />

Bottom: One Nebraska National Guard Black Hawk helicopter begins to lift a<br />

sandbag while another waits.<br />

and has two motors to be replaced.<br />

The flood damage estimate sits<br />

somewhere between $20 and $25<br />

million.<br />

Hellbusch said this damage is more<br />

extensive than that sustained in the<br />

flood of 1966 and will take more time.<br />

The weather conditions also affect<br />

repairs.<br />

The 1966 flood followed heavy<br />

rains during an August drought.<br />

This storm hit as the rainy season<br />

is just beginning. In the first few<br />

weeks following the flood, there was<br />

more rain and clouds than sun.<br />

“We’ve got a lot more obstacles to<br />

fight,” he said.<br />

The District’s two powerhouses<br />

were not damaged in the flood<br />

and <strong>Loup</strong> continued to generate<br />

electricity.<br />

“We continued generating to lower<br />

water levels to alleviate flooding,”<br />

said Hydro Superintendent Brad<br />


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

Nebraska National Guard photo by Army Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.<br />

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

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

Morton.<br />

While the emergency was<br />

overwhelming at times, Hellbusch<br />

said <strong>Loup</strong> employees always jump<br />

in and get right to work following<br />

storms. He’s seen it time and again in<br />

his 34 years with the company.<br />

“It’s all we’ve ever done,” he said.<br />

“Everybody is willing to pitch in and<br />

help.”<br />

Zarek said working 12-hour days<br />

for weeks with his coworkers was<br />

difficult, but they helped each other<br />

through the struggle.<br />

“It’s like a family,” he said.<br />

Prososki knows it’s a long road,<br />

but he is quick to put the fight into<br />

perspective. <strong>Loup</strong> Power isn’t alone<br />

in trying to recover from a historic<br />

flood.<br />

NEMA estimates that 95 percent<br />

of Nebraskans were affected by the<br />

March storms.<br />

“We had a family that lost<br />

everything they owned. Other families<br />

did, too,” he said. “Everybody’s had a<br />

loss of some kind.<br />

Despite his loss, Zarek remains<br />

upbeat and positive that things will<br />

get back to normal.<br />

“We’ll get this back together and<br />

life will go on. It will look great,” he<br />

said.<br />

“We just need a little time.”<br />

by Stacy Wemhoff | swemhoff@loup.com<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 15

around the District<br />


The Clarkson Opera House has<br />

hosted dances, talent shows, concerts<br />

and receptions for more than 100<br />

years.<br />

“It’s a great old building,” said<br />

Chuck Hamernik.<br />

He’s a member of The Clarkson<br />

Community Opera House, Inc., a<br />

nonprofit organization that formed in<br />

2002 to ensure that the Opera House<br />

will host events for years to come.<br />

The history of the Opera House<br />

dates back to the late 1800s when<br />

a fraternal organization formed in<br />

Clarkson. They met in businesses<br />

around town before building their<br />

own hall in 1891.<br />

As the Western Bohemian Fraternal<br />

Association (Zapadni Cesko Bratrska<br />

Jednota) grew in membership it<br />

outgrew the building.<br />

The new Opera House was built in<br />

the fall of 1915 and the ZCBJ had its<br />

first meeting there in January of 1916.<br />

It began showing movies in 1930<br />

and hosted many school events before<br />

Clarkson’s modern high school was<br />

constructed in 1952.<br />

The Lion’s Club leased the Opera<br />

House from 1958 through 1961 and<br />

continued to show movies and host<br />

public gatherings.<br />

VFW Cornhusker Post 6419 took<br />

over the lease in 1961 and took care of<br />

the building for 40 years.<br />

When the VFW and Ladies<br />

Auxiliary decided they couldn’t<br />

maintain the building due to their<br />

advanced ages, the nonprofit group<br />

stepped in to take over.<br />

With the help of donations, the<br />

group has updated and maintained<br />

the building for the last 16 years.<br />

Hamernik said they added central<br />

air conditioning and new windows<br />

and refinished the floors several<br />

times.<br />

Another big project is restoring the<br />

hand-painted curtains. One has been<br />

completed with seven remaining. The<br />

curtains are in fairly good shape with<br />

a bit of water damage. They were<br />

painted in the 1920s and 30s.<br />

The Opera House is listed on the<br />

National Register of Historic Places in<br />

Nebraska. It continues to be the site<br />

of community events and hosted the<br />

Glen Miller Band, a Beatles tribute<br />

band, and Elvis impersonator in the<br />

last few years.<br />


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

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

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

each rule a portion.<br />

The curtain features the legend of the three twigs. Just before his death, Svatopluk<br />

asked his sons to come to him and to bring twigs. He asked his sons to break a<br />

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

break the bundle, which was not possible.<br />

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

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

and helps maintain the Opera House.<br />

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

death. Their division lead to the fall of the Moravian Empire.<br />

Top right: Hamernik lowers a curtain at the Opera House.<br />

Bottom right: One of eight curtains at the Opera House awaiting restoration.<br />

Below: A view of the Opera House from the balcony. A gymnastics class meets<br />

there a few times a week.<br />

The Opera House is open by appointment.<br />

clarksonoperahouse.org<br />

340 Pine St., Clarkson, Neb.<br />

402-892-2457<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 17

employee notes<br />


Customer Service Supervisor<br />

20 years<br />

Jon Blaser of rural Columbus joined <strong>Loup</strong> in 1999 as Accountant/Collector at the<br />

Columbus General Office. He was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor in 2016.<br />

As Customer Service Supervisor, Blaser’s responsibilities include supervision in the<br />

areas of customer services, meter reading, and billing.<br />

A graduate of Monroe High School, Blaser earned an Associate of Applied Science<br />

Degree in Accounting from Lincoln School of Commerce.<br />

Blaser and his wife, Gina, are the parents of three children — Jessica, Connor, and<br />

Colton.<br />

10 Years<br />


Heavy Equipment Operator<br />

Andy Schmidt joined <strong>Loup</strong> in<br />

2009 as a Maintenance Man on<br />

the Columbus Canal Crew. He was<br />

promoted to Equipment Operator<br />

in 2011 and was named Heavy<br />

Equipment Operator in 2016.<br />

As Heavy Equipment Operator,<br />

Schmidt’s duties include canal<br />

maintenance from Columbus to<br />

Genoa. In addition to his work at<br />

both the Columbus and Monroe<br />

powerhouses, he runs the dragline<br />

and operates the trash rake at<br />

Monroe.<br />

A native of Monroe, Schmidt is<br />

a graduate of Monroe High School.<br />

He and his wife, Stephanie, are the<br />

parents of two daughters — Whitney<br />

and Lindy.<br />

10 years<br />


Computer Support<br />

Specialist<br />

Michael Jones of Columbus<br />

joined <strong>Loup</strong> in 2009 as Computer<br />

Support Specialist at the Columbus<br />

General Office.<br />

His duties include installing,<br />

maintaining, and repairing<br />

the computers, software, and<br />

communications systems<br />

throughout the District.<br />

Jones was born in Columbus<br />

and grew up in the Rockford,<br />

Illinois, area. He graduated from<br />

Harlem High School in Loves Park,<br />

Illinois and studied Information<br />

Technology-Electronic at Central<br />

Community College-Columbus.<br />

Jones and his wife, Beth, are the<br />

parents of three sons — Benjamin,<br />

Steven, and David.<br />

Welcome<br />


Columbus Plant Operator<br />

Jeremy Moore of Columbus joined<br />

<strong>Loup</strong> Power District as a Plant Operator<br />

at the Columbus Powerhouse.<br />

As a plant operator, Moore monitors<br />

and controls the three generation units<br />

at Columbus and remotely controls the<br />

Monroe Powerhouse. He also works<br />

closely with the Genoa Headworks to<br />

divert maximum <strong>Loup</strong> River water into<br />

the District canal system for power<br />

plant generation.<br />

Moore’s other duties include<br />

coordinating generation with NPPD’s<br />

control center in Doniphan and<br />

monitoring <strong>Loup</strong>’s 115 kV and 34.5 kV<br />

subtransmission system.<br />

Moore is a graduate of Cedar Rapids<br />

High School. He and his wife, Carri,<br />

have three sons — Talon, Parker, and<br />

Barrett.<br />



Columbus Service Center Coordinator<br />

Sheila Sup has been promoted to Columbus Service Center Coordinator.<br />

She joined <strong>Loup</strong> Power District in 2012 as a Customer Service Representative at the Albion<br />

Office and remained in that position until this promotion.<br />

As the Service Center Coordinator, Sup handles communication among the personnel at<br />

the Service Center including linemen and meter and maintenance, shop, and canal crews.<br />

Her duties include taking service calls, receiving locate requests, sending irrigation load<br />

control messages and handling dispatches. She also prepares work tickets, service orders,<br />

and reports.<br />

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

Lincoln and earned a BA degree in Communication Studies.<br />

Promoted<br />

Heesacker joins <strong>Loup</strong> Board<br />

Steve Heesacker of Humphrey joined <strong>Loup</strong> Power District’s Board of<br />

Directors in January.<br />

Promoted<br />


Customer Service Rep<br />

Natalie Sharman of Fullerton has<br />

been promoted to a Full-Time Customer<br />

Service Representative.<br />

She has worked for more than three<br />

years as part-time CSR in the St. Edward<br />

Office. With this promotion, she now<br />

serves in both the Fullerton and Albion<br />

offices.<br />

As a Customer Service Representative<br />

Sharman’s responsibilities include<br />

greeting customers; processing<br />

payments; setting up, transferring, or<br />

closing service; taking service calls; and<br />

preparing reports.<br />

Sharman is a native of Cambridge and<br />

a graduate of Cambridge High School.<br />

She studied business and marketing at<br />

the University of Nebraska-Kearney.<br />

Sharman and her husband, Les, are<br />

the parents of two children, Braden and<br />

Kinzie. They also own Shamz Auto Body<br />

in Fullerton.<br />

He represents Subdivision 3,<br />

which includes portions of<br />

Platte and Colfax Counties.<br />

Heesacker farms in the<br />

Humphrey area and also<br />

owns a realty and auction<br />

business.<br />

He decided to run for the<br />

open seat after a phone call<br />

with retiring board member<br />

Francis Sand.<br />

“After the nice conversation<br />

with him and some serious<br />

thought, I decided to file,”<br />

Heesacker said.<br />

After filing for the open seat,<br />

Heesacker began attending<br />

<strong>Loup</strong>’s board meetings to<br />

learn more about the District.<br />

“I found it very interesting<br />

and got more excited about being on the board,” he said.<br />

He is looking forward to the completion of the new Columbus Service<br />

Center and the economic development in that area.<br />

While he still has a lot to learn about <strong>Loup</strong>, Heesacker said he believes<br />

in the public power model.<br />

“I want to continue making the right decisions to provide affordable,<br />

reliable electricity,” he said.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 19

employee notes<br />

ED ELM<br />

Equipment Operator<br />

Retired<br />

Ed Elm joined <strong>Loup</strong> in 1977 as a Maintenance Man at the Genoa Headworks. He was<br />

promoted to Assistant Dredge Operator in 1979 and to Heavy Equipment Relief Operator in<br />

1981.<br />

In 1982, Elm transferred to Columbus and was promoted to Heavy Tractor Operator. His<br />

title was changed to Equipment Operator in 1986 and he continued in that position until<br />

his retirement.<br />

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

of the crew that performs maintenance on the canal system from Genoa to Columbus. He<br />

also worked at the two powerhouses when needed, helped build substations, and took care<br />

of District parks and lakes.<br />

Elm is a graduate of Genoa High School and attended Central Community College–<br />

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

Alden.<br />

5 Years<br />


Journeyman Lineman<br />

Brandon Ramaekers joined <strong>Loup</strong><br />

Power District in 2014 as a Lineman<br />

on the Columbus Line Crew at the<br />

Columbus Service Center.<br />

He was promoted to Journeyman<br />

Lineman in 2016.<br />

As a Journeyman Lineman,<br />

Ramaekers is a member of the<br />

line crew that is responsible for<br />

the construction, operation, and<br />

maintenance of <strong>Loup</strong>’s electrical<br />

transmission and distribution system<br />

in the Columbus Division.<br />

A graduate of Norfolk Catholic<br />

High School, Ramaekers earned an<br />

Associate of Applied Science Degree<br />

in Utility Line from Northeast<br />

Community College in Norfolk.<br />

Welcome<br />


Maintenance Man<br />

Jesse Hoffmeister of St. Edward<br />

joined <strong>Loup</strong> Power District as a<br />

Maintenance Man at the Genoa<br />

Headworks.<br />

In his new position,<br />

Hoffmeister is responsible for<br />

maintaining the District’s parks,<br />

facilities and equipment. He also<br />

assists equipment operators and<br />

serves as a dredge deck hand<br />

during the dredging season at the<br />

Genoa Headworks.<br />

Hoffmeister is a graduate of St.<br />

Edward High School. He and his<br />

wife, Haylee, have two sons —<br />

Mason and Ryker.<br />

1 year<br />


Customer Service Rep<br />

Cindy Gasper of Columbus<br />

joined <strong>Loup</strong> Power District as a<br />

Customer Service Representative<br />

at the Columbus General Office in<br />

2018.<br />

Gasper’s responsibilities<br />

include greeting customers,<br />

processing payments, setting up<br />

and closing service, and answering<br />

phone calls.<br />

Gasper is a native of Humphrey.<br />

She and her husband, Greg, have<br />

four children: Lindsey, Levi,<br />

Mikayla, and Michael.<br />

Gasper has owned Party Palace<br />

in Columbus for 21 years.<br />


Ho<br />

find the answers with<br />


Our new online Energy Advisor energy calculator<br />

is accessible from your computer or mobile device<br />

at www.loup.com.<br />

The tool offers a detailed report of your energy use<br />

including month-to-month comparisons, plus tips<br />

for no-cost and low-cost home improvements to<br />

help you stretch your energy dollars.<br />

Follow the tips below to get started.<br />

1: Take a quick survey<br />

Visit www.loup.com and find the Home Energy<br />

Advisor link under the “Save Money” menu.<br />

Take a few minutes to tell us about your home. Is it<br />

large or small? Well-insulated or under-insulated?<br />

How many people are living there? What appliances<br />

are drawing on electricity, and how is your<br />

thermostat typically set?<br />

After clicking,<br />

“Calculate,” you’ll<br />

instantly receive a<br />

detailed breakdown of<br />

the energy consumption<br />

in your home.<br />

2: Explore your energy use<br />

Colorful charts and<br />

graphs explain where your actual energy dollars are<br />

going and how your usage has changed over time.<br />

Discover opportunities for<br />

improvement with<br />

customized energy-saving<br />

recommendations<br />

based on<br />

your survey<br />

responses.<br />

All of the tips are<br />

easy and cost little<br />

or no money to<br />

implement.<br />

Best of all, Energy<br />

Advisor will tell<br />

you exactly how<br />

much you could<br />

save!<br />

3: Find easy ways to save<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 21


Trees that grow into or near power lines can<br />

threaten the safety and reliability of your electric<br />

service. They can cause sparks, fires, and power<br />

outages.<br />

This is especially true with storms that bring<br />

lighting, wind or ice.<br />

Before you plant trees, take a look around to see<br />

how they will affect overhead utility lines as they<br />

grow.<br />

Planting tall-growing trees under utility lines will<br />

require <strong>Loup</strong> personnel to prune them to maintain<br />

safe clearance.<br />

Where you plant trees can also affect<br />

temperatures in your home.<br />

Deciduous trees on the south, east and west sides<br />

of your home will provide cooling shade in the<br />

summer.<br />

They will lose their leaves in the winter, allowing<br />

the sun to warm your home in the cooler months.<br />

Evergreen trees and shrubs can also help you save<br />

energy by slowing cold winter winds.<br />

How tall will your tree grow? A good rule of<br />

thumb is to plant it at least that far from the<br />

utility lines.<br />

10' 20' 30' 40' 50' 60' 70'<br />

STOP<br />


No trees within<br />

25' of power lines<br />



Plant trees less than 25'<br />

in height/spread<br />

at least 25' from<br />

power lines<br />



Plant trees 25'–40' in<br />

height/spread at least<br />

40' from overhead<br />

power lines<br />

GO<br />


Plant trees larger than<br />

40' in height/spread at<br />

least 60' from overhead<br />

power lines<br />



The Headworks crew took advantage of a beautiful<br />

January day to lower the dredge discharge pipelines.<br />

Employees raised the piplines over the years as sand<br />

piled up. Preferred Sands removed much of the sand in<br />

the area, prompting the need to lower them again.<br />

Doing so prevents the swirling water from washing away<br />

the pilings.<br />

At left, Kenton Zimmer and John Fritzges work on one of<br />

the pipelines. Pictured above are a pipeline that is being<br />

lowered and one that is finished.<br />


The barrell pontoons that hold the dredge’s floating<br />

pipeline are aging and need to be replaced.<br />

There aren’t any available locally, so the Headworks crew<br />

is making their own.<br />

At left, Bob Anderson grinds areas on the new pontoon<br />

that need to be welded. There are 10 pontoons that need<br />

to be replaced.<br />

SPRING <strong>2019</strong> 23

2404 15th Street | PO Box 988<br />

Columbus, NE 68602-0988<br />

Nebraska Army National Guard riggers, Staff Sgt.<br />

William Cozad, Sgt. Luis Rocha, and Spc. Jacob Mason<br />

inspect a Bobcat loader prior to sling load operations<br />

at the Genoa Headworks on March 26.<br />

The riggers were part of a team that prepared the<br />

loader for air transport to the south side of the canal.<br />

Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Koan Nissen.

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