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Platte River Recovery Program


Sand Hill CranesConcerns have been building for years over the four threatened and endangered species that use the Platte River in Nebraska:  the whooping crane, piping plover, interior least tern, and pallid sturgeon, as well as other wildlife in the Central Platte River in Nebraska.   The habitat has been affected by water and land use activities from agriculture to municipal users who rely on the river system for irrigation, domestic water, and power production.  In 1997, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and the governors of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming signed a Cooperative Agreement to jointly develop a basinwide recovery program for these species.  In 2006, after nearly a decade of studying and negotiating strategies and alternatives, an Agreement was signed to initiate the first 13-year increment of a Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

The Water Resources Division provides hydrology support to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, whose participants include the States of Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and the U.S. Department of Interior.   A long-term goal of the Program is to improve and maintain the central Platte River habitats associated with these target species, while ensuring that existing and certain new water uses within the river basin can proceed in conformance with the Endangered Species Act under the Program's umbrella.

A Governance Committee with members from the three states, water users, environmental groups and two federal agencies has been established to implement the Program.   Water, Land and Technical Committees, along with an "Independent Scientific Advisory Committee", will advise the Program's Executive Director on technical and scientific matters.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service hydrologists participate on the Water Committee, and will regularly review water-related Program reports and products in light of commitments various parties have made under the Program Agreement.

Some potential benefits to be gained by the basin-wide approach include:

  • More effective endangered species habitat improvements based on basin-wide strategies, as opposed to piecemeal attempts at species habitat improvement.
  • Permanent restoration and protection of 29,000 acres of habitat.
  • Simplification of the ESA review process for individual water related actions throughout the Basin.
  • Development of legal and institutional protections to help ensure that existing flows and any new water deliveries by a program will reach the critical habitat areas.
  • Implementation of an adaptive-management strategy to test and evaluate the effectiveness of Program activities, including changes to riverflows resulting from Program actions and the consequent effects on fish and wildlife habitat along the Platte River.
  • Comprehensive basin-wide analysis of opportunities for water conservation and enhanced water supply.

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