By Cole Epley
GENOA, Neb. — Few people would have guessed over the years that the massive expanse of sand surrounding Loup Power District’s canal near here would one day be worth untold millions of dollars, or that it would eventually be responsible for up to 150 jobs.
The source of the sand, the Loup River, presents James Reeg a never-ending challenge. As dredge foreman for the public power district, Reeg is charged with removing anywhere from 1 million to 2 million tons of sand and sediment from the utility’s settlement basin every year.
It’s a task that takes about three months in the spring and about three months in the fall to keep water flowing to the district’s two hydroelectric power plants at Monroe and Columbus. And every year since 1937, that sand was pumped to either side of a two-mile-long canal, requiring the district to purchase additional land for storage.
As it turns out, the sand covering thousands of acres of land just west of Genoa happens to match the type of sand used to extract oil and gas in a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Advances in the controversial technique helped create a domestic oil and gas boom. And that’s been a boon for this little town of about 1,000 people west of Columbus.
“Anywhere they’re drilling for natural gas in the U.S., sand from Genoa has been used,” said T.J. Doyle, executive vice president of business operations for Preferred Sands.
Read more: http://www.omaha.com/article/20140218/MONEY/140218799