Spencer Dam Owners Receive $50 Million to Clear Crumbled Dam Remnants, Won't Rebuild

May 3, 2021, 2:40 p.m. ·

The remains of Spencer Dam's concrete portion on March 16, 2019. Photo courtesy the Office of Gov. Pete Ricketts.

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The Nebraska Public Power District received $50 million in funding to demolish and clean up the rest of a failed dam that lingers on the Niobrara River in northeast Nebraska.

The remnants of Spencer Dam have remain scattered in the river after the dam failed and broke apart more than two years ago – as many different locations across cross the state flooded following a massive winter storm. Ice rubble on the Niobrara River broke up the 93-year-old dam, and one man, Kenny Angel, died in the aftermath of the collapse.

The dam’s owner – the Nebraska Public Power District – has now received funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to officially decommission the dam two years later.

“Let’s make it clear: We do not plan to rebuild," said Mark Becker, a NPPD spokesperson.

“We have indicated that to FEMA; we will not rebuild," he said. "We will remove it, and we’ll be working with various agencies to basically return the river to what it was many years ago.”

NPPD made the decision to not rebuild because, when operational, the dam only generated a small portion – about 3 of 2,000 total megawatts – of the utility’s power, according to Becker, adding that NPPD had planned to sell the dam to local resource districts before the March 2019 failure.

The utility also remains involved in a lawsuit with the family of Angel, who died after the dam’s collapse. The family alleges those who own and operate the dam were, in part, responsible for Angel’s death.