Since 1997, the Nebraska
Wildlife Federation has played a lead role in negotiations with state and
federal government officials, irrigators, other conservation groups, and
municipal water users to craft and implement a basin-wide Platte River Cooperative Agreement
program. That hard work is finally bearing fruit, as the Platte River
Recovery Program us being put in place to provide for (1)
the protection and management
10,000 acres of land in the Central Platte as wildlife habitat, (2) increases in
Platte River flows at times beneficial to wildlife, through water conservation,
leasing, and re-timing of existing flows, (3) commitments in all three states to
offset the impact of post-1997 water development on critical minimum flows
needed for fish and wildlife, and (4) a comprehensive monitoring and research
program to guide current and future conservation efforts. (For a more complete
In the summer and fall of 2006,
the Nebraska Wildlife Federation undertook a major public education campaign to
tell the story of the Platte River Recovery Program to our members, other
conservation and wildlife organizations, the news media and press, Nebraska
elected officials, and the general public. The campaign was funded by our
members, and by a grant from -- and in partnership with -- the National Wildlife Federation.
wildlife organizations expressed support for the Recovery Program, along with
many farm, irrigation, and other organizations. The Governor's Platte River
Advisory Council voted to support the program, as did the Nebraska Game & Parks
Commission. We believe our public information campaign played a significant role
in Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's eventual decision to sign the Platte River
is Not Yet Finished!
Congress passed legislation authorizing the
Recovery Program in 2008, so the Department of Interior can continue to
implement it. Our thanks to Senator Ben Nelson and former Senator Chuck Hagel, and Representatives Adrian
Smith, Jeff Fortenberry, and Lee Terry, all of whom co-sponsored legislation to
authorize the program.
Congress must also provide the bulk of the funding for the Program.
The Department of Interior agreed to
provide $157 million over 13 years (in 2007 dollars) to fund the Recovery
Program. Those funds are subject to the annual Congressional appropriations
of Colorado and Wyoming moved quickly to provide their share
of the funding. Colorado water users will provide $24 million for the
program, and the State of Wyoming will provide $6 billion.
Nebraska is not required to provide
any of the $187 million cash
cost of the Recovery Program, but is committed to offset the
impact of new post-1997 water use (including new irrigation wells) that will
impact minimum Platte River flows. To meet that promise, Nebraska must implement a
"Nebraska Depletions Plan". Nebraska must develop a long-term funding plan to implement
the integrated water management plans required under Nebraska law (LB 962),
because those plans are the basis for meeting Nebraska's commitment under the
Platte River Recovery Program.
Rather than fund the Nebraska Depletions Plan from state funds, as was
contemplated by those who negotiated the Program, Governor Dave Heineman
insisted that state funds would cover only a small part of the money needed to
lease and buy water rights to meet Nebraska's obligations. The delays
that followed meant that Nebraska failed to meet its promise to have the Nebraska
Depletions Plan up and running by December, 2008. The current funding mix for
the Depletions Plan includes $2 million per year
in state funds, $2 million per year from the Nebraska Environmental Trust,
and $4 million per year from local Natural Resource Districts and other
sources, for a total of $16 million over three years.
Nebraska has not yet met its obligation to have a
Depletions Plan in place to fully offset the depletions to the river caused by
the thousands of groundwater wells drilled since 1997.
We will continue to add
information to this site as the Program is implemented. Additional information on the
Cooperative Agreement, and copies of many of the official documents involved can
be obtained at PlatteRiverProgram.org.
Release: The four conservation organizations who negotiated the final
Recovery Program -- the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife
Federation, Platte River Whooping Crane Trust, and American Rivers -- welcomed
the signature of Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, the last signature
needed to implement the Recovery Program (December 7, 2006, Word doc).
Many Organizations Support
Recovery Program. The Nebraska
Wildlife Federation provided 500 information packets on the Platte River
Recovery to wildlife and other organizations, newspapers and media outlets,
public officials and others, as part of our campaign to generate support for the
program. Many responded, flooding the Governor's office with letters of support.
Support also came from the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and the Governor's
Platte River Advisory Council.
Secretary of Interior Signs
Record of Decision. On September 28, 2006, Secretary of Interior Dirk
Kempthorne signed the Record of Decision on the Platte River Recovery
Implementation Program. That step completes the process of developing an
Environmental Impact Statement and a Biological Opinion on the Recovery Program,
and signaled the Department's intent to move ahead with the program -- provided
all three states agreed.
Conservation Organizations pleased that FWS Biological Opinion gives passing
grade to Platte Plan for Whooping Crane, Interior Least Tern, Piping Plover, and
Pallid Sturgeon. (June 20, 2006, Word doc).
News Release: Conservation
organizations hail release of Final Environmental Impact Statement (May 23,
2006, Word doc).
News Release: Nebraska Wildlife Federation objects to unneeded delay in
Platte River recovery process (July 31, 2006, Word doc).
Highlights of the
Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Platte River Recovery Implementation
Program (Word doc, prepared by the Nebraska Wildlife Federation).
Wildlife Federation update and summary of Platte River Cooperative Agreement
issues (December 7, 2006, Word doc).
The following Fact Sheets provide
information on the Platte River, its fish and wildlife, and the Platte River