KEARNEY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, plans to implement a North Platte chokepoint test flow release using “environmental account” water from Lake McConaughy beginning Monday.
The PRRIP is a cooperative basin-wide program to assist in the recovery of threatened and endangered species in the Platte River including the whooping crane, piping plover, interior least tern, and pallid sturgeon. EA water is dedicated to instream flow purposes, specifically providing benefits to the threatened and endangered species that are the focus of the PRRIP’s actions.
The North Platte “chokepoint” is that reach of the North Platte River extending a few miles on either side of the Highway 83 bridge where the encroachment of invasive phragmites vegetation has significantly reduced the river’s flow capacity at flood stage relative to conditions that were present in the late 1990s when PRRIP objectives were originally developed.
One PRRIP objective is to achieve a flow of 3,000 cubic feet per second at the North Platte chokepoint while remaining below flood stage.
The current National Weather Service flood stage for the North Platte River at North Platte is 6.0 feet or about 1,930 cfs.
The North Platte chokepoint test flow release will allow the PRRIP to test the performance of the State Channel Berm, which was rehabilitated in 2018 and is designed to redirect high flows on the North Platte River away from residential areas.
The test flow release will also collect extensive surface water and groundwater data and visual observations. This information will be reviewed by the National Weather Service to determine if flood stage should be increased to 6.5 feet or about 2,770 cfs.
Parties involved will be in close coordination during the test flow release and will be prepared to scale back or terminate the EA release if required. They will monitor weather as well as water level conditions in and around North Platte to determine if changes to the test flow release implementation plan are needed.