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Plans to draw down Cunningham Lake moving forward

Published Oct. 30, 2018
A view of Cunningham Lake Jul. 18, 2018, located in Omaha, Nebr. (Photo by Angel Pletka, USACE). Boats appear in the left of the photo, stationary in the lake. A path leads forward, in the right of the photo.

A view of Cunningham Lake Jul. 18, 2018, located in Omaha, Nebr. (Photo by Angel Pletka, USACE)

Photo shows a map of park closures at Cunningham Lake in Omaha, Nebr.

The map shows entrances at Cunningham Lake that will be closed during the Lake draw down, which started Oct. 30, 2018. (Map provided by City of Omaha)

OMAHA, Nebr.—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began drawing down Glenn Cunningham Lake Tuesday as part of a multiagency initiative to control the zebra mussels and common carp that have negatively impacted the lake’s ecosystem and to attempt to prevent from spreading to other lakes.

In collaboration with the City of Omaha and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Corps had previously completed a 30-day public comment period for the Environmental Assessment of the Cunningham Lake project, which closed Oct. 17, 2018. Omaha District Commander John Hudson signed a “Finding of No Significant Impact” statement Oct. 29.

In the interest of public safety, the City will be closing many park entrances until the lake refills. However, entrances 2, 3, 8 and the archery range will remain open to provide access to trails and other land-based activities (see map).  The partial park closure will reduce park visitors’ exposure to safety hazards, such as getting stuck in exposed mudflats or falling through ice. The City is urging the public to adhere to all signage, which specifically instructs which parts of the park are open or closed. The City may be contacted for any questions regarding park management and entrance closures.

The NGPC regularly monitors Nebraska lakes to ensure lake ecosystems in the state are flourishing with biodiversity. The decision to draw down Cunningham Lake was made after a thorough evaluation of other alternatives in the EA. Drawing down a lake during cold seasons has proven to be an effective method of reducing zebra mussel populations, drying and freezing them through the prolonged exposure to low temperatures. The lake is expected to refill next year as normal spring rains and runoff are captured behind the dam. The NGPC plans to restock the lake with sport fish and will continue to monitor the lake’s progress. Questions about the invasive species and the restocking of the lake should be directed to the NGPC.

Zebra mussels can significantly impact a lake’s ecosystem, fishery, and recreational potential.  Reducing the spread of invasive species, particularly zebra mussels, is critical to preventing impacts to other water bodies.  The City, Corps, and NGPC urge all water users to help protect Nebraska’s extensive network of rivers and lakes. All equipment should be clean, drained and dry between uses.

Dr. Michael Izard-Carroll
1616 Capitol Ave. Omaha, NE 68102

Release no. 18-080