Public Information Portal Red Willow Dam/Hugh Butler Lake, Neb.

Red Willow Dam
Red Willow Dam, which impounds Hugh Butler Lake, is located on Red Willow Creek about 11 miles northwest of McCook

Red Willow Dam, located on Red Willow Creek about 11 miles northwest of McCook, is an earthfill embankment with a structural height of 126 feet that forms a reservoir of 86,630 acre-feet. An ungated concrete spillway is located in the right abutment. An outlet works through the base of the dam provides for river and irrigation releases for downstream diversions. The reservoir behind this dam is Hugh Butler Lake.

The Bureau of Reclamation initiated a Safety of Dams Corrective Action Study in late February of 2010 as a result of the discovery of cracking in the Red Willow Dam embankment in October 2009. Releases continue to be made as necessary to maintain the reservoir elevation in the target range of 2552.0 to 2554.0 feet to ensure safety of the structure as well as the downstream area. Reservoir operations will continue to maintain this target range until repairs are complete.

Please see below for updates.

For more information, please contact Craig Scott at (308) 345-1030.

Updates & News

Please note, updates will be provided when new information becomes available:

  • 12/13/13 - Red Willow Dam Work Complete – Road Open
  • 2/08/2013 - As of the end of October 2012, SEMA continues to place the sand filter, chimney drain, and the stability berm. They plan to work through the winter, weather permitting. The chimney drain on approximately the left third of the dam is currently at elevation 2615. The stability berm construction will continue on top of the chimney drain up to elevation 2634. The lowest point as of November 29th on the fill is at elevation 2562.7 feet and station 14+36 (approximately 150 feet north of the River Outlet Works’ control house). SEMA has backfilled around the river outlet works and spillway conduits. They have approximately 30 feet of fill over top of the river outlet works conduit. They have backfilled two feet above the spillway conduit with zone 2 (sand). Once the chimney drain above the river outlet works has been constructed up to the elevation of the hill between the outlet and the spillway, it will continue over the spillway and up the right abutment.

    In the next several months, SEMA will continue to construct the new chimney drain and stability berm and restore the upstream face of the dam that was affected by Reclamation’s investigation prior to construction. They will also install a two-stage blanket filter in the base of the discharge channel immediately downstream of the stilling basins.
  • 9/04/2012 - Construction Continues at Red Willow Dam
  • 8/23/2012 - To date, SEMA Construction has excavated approximately 350,000 cubic yards of the downstream face of Red Willow Dam including exposing a portion of the spillway conduit and the outlet works conduit. Reconstruction has begun; including placement of a geonet/sand and gravel filtration system along the entire length of the dam.

    Placement of geonet beginning at left end of dam.

    The filtration system involves placing nearly 150,000 square yards of geonet and geotextile materials, 100,000 cubic yards of sand and 50,000 cubic yards of gravel. This system will then be overlain with approximately 470,000 cubic yards of embankment material.

    Approximately 25% of the geonet has been placed, and is being systematically covered with layers of sand and gravel.

    Size requirements for the sands and gravel which make up the filter system are very specific. Due to the lack of suitable material on site, the contractor has been hauling sands and gravel materials from various other sites. A horizontal drain consisting of a layer of gravel and a layer of sand has been constructed at the downstream toe of the dam. The original pipe drain at the toe of the dam has also been replaced. This filter and drainage system provides valuable protection against internal erosion of the dam embankment.

    Although the contract completion date is currently November 27, 2013, SEMA and Reclamation are doing everything possible to complete the contract at an earlier date.

    For safety and security reasons, access to the construction site and travel across the dam remains closed to the public during the construction period. The Nebraska-Kansas Area Office maintenance crew constructed an observation area at the southwest end of the dam and is accessible by county roads.

  • 1/23/2012 - Public Access Limited During Red Willow Dam Repairs
  • 12/13/2011 - SEMA Construction Gears Up for Red Willow Dam Modifications
  • 9/27/2011 - $15.3 Million Contract Awarded for Red Willow Dam Modification
  • 8/30/2011 - Reclamation Reviews Red Willow Modification Bids
  • 8/19/2011 – Reclamation extends bid opening date to August 30. Reclamation has extended the bid opening date to allow time to respond to contractor questions. An award date is still expected in September.
  • Public Information Portal Archive

Red Willow Dam Modification
Red Willow Dam Modification - View of the contractor's Zone 3 stockpile with stacker plant and conveyor system.

Red Willow Dam Modification
Red Willow Dam Modification - Looking east at the stockpiled stripped topsoil (left) and existing embankment (right) located downstream of the dam.

Reservoir Data Links

Informational Links

Last Updated: 5/22/15