TORRINGTON – Area residents will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed extension of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) during a public meeting next week in Torrington.
The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, in the Brand Room at the Rendezvous Center on the Goshen County Fairgrounds.
The PRRIP was approved in 2007 by Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the U.S. Department of the Interior as a means of protecting four endangered species in the North Platte River basin: whooping crane, interior least tern, piping plover and pallid sturgeon.
A first 13-year increment of the program will expire in 2019, thus the regional meetings to take comments from water users, wildlife agencies, and members of the public, on possible changes to be addressed in a second 13-year increment (2019-2032).
Dennis Strauch, general manager of the Pathfinder Irrigation District at Mitchell, Neb., said all but one of the goals in the original plan have been met. Remaining is the goal to increase stream flows in the Central Platte River during relevant time periods.
“We are 30,000 to 40,000 acre feet short of the milestone goal,” Strauch said. “We need to get more done on the water component.”
The original goal was to reduce target flow shortages up to an average of 130,000 to 150,000 acre-feet per year. One acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land to a depth of 12 inches, about 326,000 gallons. A flow rate of one acre foot/year equates to approximately 893 gallons per day.
Brock Merrill, Platte River Program Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the purpose of the meetings is to get input from the public on how to improve the flow, as well as suggestions on other aspects of the program.
“We want to get public input on the proposed extension, and any alternatives,” Merrill said Tuesday during a telephone interview from the Bureau’s Torrington office. The information will be used to determine future actions by the National Environmental Protection Agency regarding the Endangered Species Act, among other aspects of the program.
Other goals for the first 13 years included: Protecting, restoring where appropriate, and maintaining at least 10,000 acres of habitat between Lexington and Chapman, Neb., and accommodating new water related activities consistent with long-term Program goals.
An 11-member Governance Committee was established to lead the program. It consists of representatives from Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Platte water users, North Platte water users, downstream water users, and environmental groups.
In addition to water related activities throughout the Platte River Basin, land acquisition and management for the targeted bird species occurs in the central Platte region (Lexington to Chapman, Neb.). Water activities are designed to provide benefits to the target bird species in the central Platte, and the pallid sturgeon in the lower Platte River below the Elkhorn River confluence.
The long-term goal of the PRRIP is to improve and maintain associated habitats which includes: improving and maintaining migration habitat for whooping cranes and reproductive habitat for least terns and piping plovers; reducing the likelihood of other species found in the area being listed under the Endangered Species Act, and testing the assumption that managing water flow in the central Platte River also improves the pallid sturgeon’s lower Platte River habitat.
Program executive director is Jerry F. Kenny, Ph.D., located in Kearney, Neb.
For more information on the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, visit www.platteriverprogram.org