The Minor Depletions Biological Opinion
Interest in streamlining the consultation process for a large number of relatively small new and existing water-related activities throughout the Platte River basin led to the development of a Minor Depletions Biological Opinion by the Service in 1996 (the Opinion was revised in 2002.)
From 1996 through 2006, qualifying water-related projects resulting in depletions of less than 25 acre-feet/year were able to secure ESA coverage for their effects to the target Platte River species through measures established as part of that Biological Opinion. These measures included monetary payments (based on the magnitude and type of depletion) to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to offset project impacts with habitat restoration activities in the central Platte habitat area. Several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided monies to NFWF which were earmarked for these recovery efforts, and some project proponents used these monies to offset the effects of their projects in the central Platte habitat area.
As already mentioned, the Service considers project depletions that were covered by the Minor Depletions Biological Opinion to be fully addressed in terms of their effect on these species, and no further payments or other action is necessary. With the implementation of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, the Minor Depletions Biological Opinion is no longer available for projects in the Platte River basin above the Loup River confluence. However, coverage under that biological opinion remains an option for qualifying projects in the Loup River basin and other areas in Nebraska that drain to the Platte River downstream of the Loup River confluence.
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