Berm-focused Platte River Recovery Implementation Program water project to proceed

Berm-focused PRRIP water project to proceed

Lori Potter – Kearney Hub

ELM CREEK — A design and cost estimate might be ready in September for the first new Platte River Recovery Implementation Program water project to proceed since the large J-2 water-retiming reservoirs project proposed for southwest of Overton were determined to be too expensive.

The main feature of the new project will be about 6.5 miles of small berms spread over roughly 300 grassland acres in the southeast corner of the 3,000-acre Cottonwood Ranch. It is owned by Nebraska Public Power District and managed by the PRRIP on the south side of the river between Elm Creek and Overton.

Platte River Recovery Implementation Program

Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Director of Habitat Management and Rehabilitation Jason Farnsworth, left, and Executive Director Jerry Kenny describe for 2017 Nebraska Water and Natural Resources Tour participants a water project at a Cottonwood Ranch grassland southwest of Elm Creek. The plan is to build small berms to hold water on the 300-acre site at times when high flows allow diversions from the Platte River, at the tree line in the background. Lori Potter, Kearney Hub

PRRIP Director of Habitat Management and Rehabilitation Jason Farnsworth said the benefits will be better roosting and foraging habitat for migrating whooping cranes and the ability to retime water in the river.

The Platte Program is a combined effort of the U.S. Department of Interior, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado to protect critical habitat in and around the Central Platte River for threatened and endangered species: whooping cranes, interior least terns and piping plovers.

The three main components for the first 13-year increment are to protect 10,000 acres of land habitat — PRRIP Executive Director Jerry Kenny of Kearney said 12,000 acres have been acquired — and reduce depletions to river target flows by 130,000-150,000 acre-feet on average.

He said program partners brought 80,000 a-f of water toward the goal, leaving 50,000-80,000 a-f still to achieve.

Platte River Recovery Implementation Program

Grazing leases and public access for hiking and waterfowl hunting will likely continue at the Cottonwood Ranch site where a berm-focused Platte River Recovery Implementation Program water project may be built late this year or early in 2018. Lori Potter, Kearney Hub

The Cottonwood Ranch property was acquired as wet meadow and lowland grassland habitat, Farnsworth said, “but we had issues keeping water in this area.”

“Soon, we will incorporate this whole area as a broad-scale recharge project that can hold water from the Platte if there is a flow excess,” he said, beyond targets set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Berms will be 5-6 feet tall.

“It will be a couple hundred acres of water 6 to 12 to 14 inches deep. That’s perfect for these birds,” Farnsworth said about the habitat that will be created to attract migrating whooping cranes.

To read more of this article by Lori Potter of the Kearney Hub, click here.

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

 

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Grant to Initiate the GBRA/TAP Agreement

Goal to Address Long-Term Water Supply Needs in Guadalupe Basin and Safeguard Critical Whooping Crane Habitat

AUSTIN — The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and The Aransas Project (TAP) undertook the first step in the implementation of The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority/The Aransas Project Agreement (GBRA/TAP Agreement), announcing the receipt of a grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (www.CGMF.org).

The Aransas Project

Whooping Cranes at Aransas NWR. Photo by Kevin Sims

The grant is to develop a strategy and action plan to advance implementation of the GBRA/TAP Agreement toward a shared vision for future habitat and water for Guadalupe River System and San Antonio Bay.

Developed in 2016, the GBRA/TAP agreement was reached after years of litigation over freshwater inflows for San Antonio Bay and the long-term success of the only remaining flock of wild whooping cranes in the world.

The agreement sets up a process by which GBRA and TAP will jointly investigate issues associated with the future of water usage and availability on the Guadalupe and San Antonio River systems and the freshwater needs of the whooping cranes. The work under this agreement will consider both habitat issues for the whooping cranes as well as long-term water supply and inflow issues.

Under this planning grant, GBRA and TAP are designing a process to engage key stakeholders throughout the Guadalupe River Watershed and neighboring San Antonio and Aransas Bays to inform the development of the strategy and plan to support implementation of the Agreement. This research will begin in June and will continue into the fall.

The intent of GBRA and TAP is to create a study and evaluation process that will ultimately propose distinct courses of action to ensure whooping crane habitat and long-term water availability for both humans and nature.

About The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority

The Aransas ProjectThe Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority was established by the Texas Legislature in 1933 as a water conservation and reclamation district. GBRA provides stewardship for the water resources in its 10-county statutory district, which begins near the headwaters of the Guadalupe and Blanco rivers, ends at San Antonio Bay, and includes Kendall, Comal, Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Gonzales, DeWitt, Victoria, Calhoun, and Refugio counties. GBRA provides services that include hydroelectric generation; water and wastewater treatment; municipal, industrial, and agricultural raw water supply; and recreational operations.

About The Aransas Project

The Aransas ProjectThe Aransas Project was founded by a diverse group of organizations who believe that the whooping cranes, the Texas coast and the freshwater of the Guadalupe River Basin are essential to our way of life. TAP is committed to ensuring Guadalupe River flows from the Hill Country to the coast and for the protection of San Antonio and Aransas Bays and the endangered whooping crane. TAP’s membership includes governmental entities such as Aransas County, City of Rockport and Town of Fulton and non-governmental organizations such as the International Crane Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Texas, Matagorda Bay Foundation, Houston, Coastal Bend and Travis Audubon Societies, Aransas Bird and Nature Club, Aransas County Guides Association and several Rockport-area businesses.

For more information, contact:
Todd Votteler, tvotteler@gbra.org or (830) 379-5822 and
Jim Blackburn, jbb@blackburncarter.com or (713) 501-9840

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