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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 12, 2000
Contacts: Sharon Whitmore 308-382-6468, ext. 18
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Water Into Platte

Because the recent hot, dry, and windy weather conditions have caused flows in the Platte River to drop below seasonal average, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 9, requested the first ever release of Environmental Account water into the Platte. This water is part of the Platte River Cooperative Agreement’s Environmental Account (EA) stored in Lake McConaughy for use by the Service in augmenting or enhancing downstream flows when low water conditions could adversely affect the Platte River endangered species.

"The desired Platte River flows at Grand Island should average about 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) at this time of year," said Sharon Whitmore, the Service’s Environmental Account Manager. "However, due to the hot weather and the anticipated increase in irrigation demands, flows could drop to as low as 800 cfs at Grand Island during June," Whitmore added.

Unless conditions in the basin change, the Service plans to release 400 cfs of EA water per day through at least June to maintain flows between 1,000 to 1,200 cfs at Grand Island. "These flows are necessary to make sure that the least terns and piping plovers that prefer to nest on river sandbars will nest at higher elevations where they will not be threatened by spike flows or thunderstorm events which could occur later in the summer," added Whitmore.

Since this is the first release of EA water, account manager Whitmore will be continuously monitoring the river and communicating with Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and Department of Water Resources staff to make adjustments as needed. A 15-day release of 400 cfs per day would use about 12,000 acre feet (af) of the 131,000 af of water currently stored in the Environmental Account.

"After the birds have finished nesting, we’ll look at maintaining river flows for the fish community, possibly at a dry-year flow target of 800 cfs," said Whitmore.

The Platte River is a resource of national and international importance which provides essential habitat for the endangered whooping crane and least tern as well as the threatened piping plover and pallid sturgeon.

The Platte River Environmental Account is the term used for a "block of water" set aside in Lake McConaughy to provide beneficial instream flows for endangered species in the Platte River. It was established as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower licensing agreements with Central Nebraska Public Power District and Nebraska Public Power District to address threatened and endangered species issues related to their operations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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