REPUBLICAN CITY, Neb. — Tarps flapping in the wind on the spillway side of Harlan County Dam’s gates eight and 11 represent a past-halfway point in the multi-year project to make critical repairs to the 18 flood control gates.

An update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District office shared with the Hub ( ) by Jim Bowen, operations project manager at Republican City, says welding is done and new structures are installed for gates 1-9, painting is done and electrical work is substantially completed on gates 1-7, and work on two of the nine sluiceways at the bottom of the dam is complete.

Sluice gates are used to release water downstream for irrigation and other nonemergency purposes

The latest corps report says the project is on or ahead of schedule and was 49 percent complete as of the end of August. The scheduled completion date remains April 2018.

Tom Bishop, a project engineer with the corps’ Kansas City office, said in March, “I believe they will have 12 to 14 gates done by the end of this year.”

He explained that good weather allowed work to continue last winter and may have advanced the project enough to allow more than six gates to be rehabilitated in 2016.

Project managers have said since project planning time that they hoped repairs could be completed on six gates per year over three years. They also cautioned that the job could take longer.

There have been signs for many years that gate repairs had reached the urgent point on the dam project authorized after the 1935 Republican River Flood.

Seven gates were red-tagged as a sign they couldn’t be opened because of problems linked to wear and tear combined with the corrosive effects of water and wind.

During a June 2015 Nebraska Water and Natural Resources Tour stop at Harlan County Lake, Larry Janicek, park manager for the corps’ Republican City office, said a major concern came up about 20 years ago when operators tried and failed to open gates on a California dam with gates similar to those in Harlan County Dam.

Janicek said the Harlan County gates were red-tagged because there was friction with the bearings. He added that it would take “five guys” to operate a gate that still would open, but the job might require tools such as screwdrivers and extension cords.

The gate repairs are focused on bearings and strengthening gate arms. Other projects include sandblasting and repainting all equipment, checking all welds, installing new chains, replacing each gate’s electrical system and inspecting and repairing the nine sluice gates.

OCCI Inc. of Fulton, Mo., is the contractor.

The contract to complete the project is fully funded. Bishop told the Hub in March that additional electrical work had pushed the cost to $25.9 million, compared with original estimates of $25.6 million to $25.7 million.

He described that as a pretty modest increase for such a project.

Information from: Kearney Hub,

An AP Member Exchange shared by the Kearney Hub.