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Bostwick Division Project History (102 KB) (pdf)
General Description | Plan | Development | Benefits


General Description

The Bostwick Division is in south-central Nebraska and north-central Kansas. It extends from Orleans, Nebraska, above Harlan County Lake, to Concordia, Kansas, and includes land on both sides of the Republican River. The greater part of the project works has been completed. Features of the Bostwick Division include Harlan County Dam and Lake on the Republican River (constructed by the Corps of Engineers), Lovewell Dam and Reservoir on White Rock Creek, one existing and one proposed diversion dam, six pumping plants, and the canals, laterals, and drains necessary to serve 104,240 irrigable acres (86,240 with available service and 18,000 potential) in seven counties. The reservoir, lake, and surrounding lands of the division provide benefits for flood control, irrigation, sediment control, fish and wildlife enhancement, and recreation.

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Water for Bostwick Division is stored in Harlan County Lake and Lovewell Reservoir. The division is divided into two general areas: the Bostwick in Nebraska, and the Kansas-Bostwick.

The Nebraska area contains 24,240 acres divided into two units: Franklin and Superior-Courtland. Completed facilities served 20,492 acres of these two units during the 1981 irrigation season.

The Franklin Unit is served by the Franklin and Naponee Canals, which divert directly from Harlan County Dam, and by the Franklin South Side Pump Canal, which receives water directly from the river through a pumping plant 17 miles downstream from the dam.

The Superior-Courtland Unit is served by the Superior and Courtland Canals, originating at the Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam on the Republican River. The Courtland Canal also serves the Courtland Unit in Kansas.

The Kansas-Bostwick area consists of 80,000 irrigable acres; 62,000 acres in the Courtland Unit and 18,000 acres in the potential Scandia Unit. Water for the Courtland Unit is diverted into the Courtland Canal at the Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam. Several other canals branch off from the Courtland Canal for irrigation.

Facility Descriptions
Harlan County Dam

Harlan County Dam, the principal storage feature of the Bostwick Division, was completed by the Corps of Engineers on December 2, 1952, under the authority of the Flood Control Act of 1941, as amended by the act of 1944. The dam is located on the Republican River in Harlan County, Nebraska. It is an earthfill structure 107 feet high and 11,828 feet long. It contains 13,400,000 cubic yards of earth in the embankment of 430,000 cubic yards of concrete in the spillway. During construction, provisions were made for future installation of a power penstock. The lake storage capacity is 840,561 acre-feet, of which 193,060 acre-feet are allocated to irrigation, 508,989 to flood control, and the remainder to inactive and dead capacity.

Franklin Unit

Two diversion outlets are installed in the Harland County Dam to serve the Franklin Unit: The 230-cubic-foot-per-second Franklin Canal extends 47.9 miles east, paralleling the Republic River to serve the 11,116 acres of the north portion; the 30-cubic-foot-per-second Naponee Canal extends from the dam on the south side of the river eastward and serves 1,737 acres; the 45- cubic-foot per-second Franklin South Side Pumping Plant, located about 17 miles downstream from the dam, lifts river water 20 feet to a 4.9-mile-long canal to supply 2,091 acres. Laterals and drains complete the facilities for operation of the Franklin Unit.

Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam and Canal System

The Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam is located on the Republic River 3 miles west of Guide Rock, Nebraska. It is a concrete ogee weir structure with a hydraulic height of 8 feet and a weir crest length of 420 feet. Embankment wings total more than 4,000 feet. The Superior Canal begins at the north side of the dam and extends 30 miles eastward to the State line. The canal has a capacity of 139 cubic feet per second, and supplies water to 5,863 acres north of the river in the Superior-Courtland Unit in Nebraska.

The Courtland Canal system originates at Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam, and presently serves 1,980 acres in Nebraska and 62,000 acres in Kansas. About midway along its length, the canal discharges in Lovewell Reservoir, which regulates the combined flows of the canal and White Rock Creek. The lower end of the system diverts from Lovewell Reservoir and extends southwestward to the vicinity of Courtland, Kansas. The system and its components total 114 miles in length. In addition to the Courtland Canal, some of the more important features are the North, Ridge, White Rock, Miller, White Rock Extension, and Courtland West Canals. Other facilities of importance are the Pump Canals Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4, and the associated pumping plants.

Lovewell Dam

Lovewell Dam is on the White Rock Creek 3 miles northwest of Lovewell, Kansas. The reservoir stores water from White Rock Creek and diversions from the Republican River by way of the Courtland Canal. The dam is a 3-million-cubic-yard earthfill structure, 8,500 feet long, with a height-of-embankment 81 feet above streambed. The total capacity of the reservoir is 92,150 acre-feet, of which 24,930 is allocated for conservation, 50,460 acre-feet for flood control, and the remainder for inactive and dead capacity.

Operating Agencies

Harlan County Dam is operated and maintained by the Corps of Engineers; Lovewell Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation; and the Superior-Courtland Diversion Dam, as well as its distribution system, by the Kansas-Bostwick Irrigation District. The Franklin, Naponee, Franklin Pump, and Superior Canals, with associated laterals and drains, and the laterals from the Courtland Canal in Nebraska, are operated and maintained by the Bostwick Irrigation District in Nebraska.

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The Republican River Basin was acquired from France in 1803, but settlement of the valley and of the Bostwick Division area developed slowly until the end of the Civil War. The postwar period of westward expansion, combined with construction of railroads through the West and peaceful relations with the Indians, brought rapid settlement of the valleys along the principal streams. The adjacent and higher tablelands were homesteaded in the 1880`s.

During the early 1900`s, the residents of the valley battled flood, drought, and insects. These tribulations and several intervals of economic depression contributed to the difficulty of maintaining an economic and social order based primarily on agriculture. A disastrous flood occurred in 1935 which took the lives of 110 persons and caused over $9 million in property damage and loss. As a result, the residents took the first of a long series of steps to develop, control, and improve the land and water resources.

An organization of landowners, businessmen, and other concerned citizens requested the assistance of the Federal Government. In response to these appeals, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and War conducted comprehensive studies and surveys of the area. The Bureau of Reclamation started its work in 1939. As a result of these studies, construction of the Bostwick Division was authorized by act of Congress on December 22, 1944, and work began in 1948. By 1957, the Nebraska part of the division was essentially complete, and the structures in Kansas were nearing completion.

The Bostwick Irrigation District in Nebraska was formed April 26, 1948, and a repayment contract with the United States was executed February 21, 1949. The Kansas-Bostwick Irrigation District No. 2 was approved by the Chief Engineer, Division of Water Resources of Kansas, on September 25, 1948, and a repayment contract was executed April 20, 1951.


The Corps of Engineers released a report in 1931 (H. Doc. 195, 73d Cong., 2d session) which included a description of the Lower Republican Project and outlined a plan of development for irrigation in the Bostwick Division area. The unprecedented Republican River flood of 1935 prompted further studies by the Corps of Engineers, and its report of April 1940 included a revised plan for development of the lower project.

The 1931 report included a proposal for the irrigation of 107,000 acres lying in the Republican River Valley and on adjacent lands in Kansas between Harlan County Dam near Republican City, Nebraska, and Concordia, Kansas. Storage of 200,000 acre-feet was proposed at Harlan County Dam. The Bureau of Reclamation released its preliminary report on the project in 1938 and initiated detailed investigations in 1940. In 1943, Reclamation released a report in which a comprehensive plan for flood control and irrigation development of the entire basin was presented. Results of a detailed investigation of the Bostwick Division were included in that report.


The division was authorized by the Flood Control Act of December 22, 1944, Public Law 534, which approved the general comprehensive plan set forth in Senate Document 191 and 475, as revised and coordinated by Senate Document 247, 78th Congress, 2d session.


Construction of Bureau of Reclamation features began in March 1949, and the existing features were completed in June 1968.

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Principal crops include corn, alfalfa, silage, and wheat. Beef production is the principal livestock enterprise, with dairy products also serving as an important source of income. Crop failure from drought on irrigated land has been virtually eliminated as a result of the division construction, and agricultural production has been stabilized. The community is assured of adequate dependable income and purchasing power with a resultant beneficial impact on the local economy.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

Lovewell Reservoir and Harlan County Lake provide excellent facilities for outdoor recreation and fish and wildlife activities. Thousands of people visit the facilities each year. Principal recreational activities include camping, fishing, swimming, boating, and water skiing.

For specific information about any of these sites, click on the name below:

Harlan County Lake
Lovewell Reservoir

Flood Control

Harlan County Lake and Lovewell Reservoir provide effective flood control to the valleys immediately downstream of these impoundments as well as to cities, towns, farms, and lands located far downstream.

Harlan County Reservoir has an exclusive flood control allocation of 498,001 acre feet and, as of 1998, has saved $139.0 million in flood damages. Lovewell Reservoir has an exclusive flood control capacity of 50,460 acre-feet and a surcharge capacity of 94,149 acre-feet for a total flood capacity of 144,500 acre-feet and, as of 1998 has saved $142.0 million in flood damages.

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Last updated: Sep 17, 2015