Instream fFlows for the Big Bend Reach of the Platte River

by John G. VanDerwalker, Platte River Whooping Crane Critical, Habitat Maintenance Trust, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Planning Now for Irrigation and Drainage in the 21st Century


The Big Bend reach of the Platte River in Central Nebraska provides habitat for 230 species of migratory birds. Included are six endangered or threatened species and the world's largest concentration of sandhill cranes. This habitat is dependent on instream flows sufficient to maintain the braided river character of the channel and the biological integrity of the stream. Irrigation and hydropower development have severely depleted the flows of the Platte and reduced the riverine habitat in some reaches to less than 5% of the amount available prior to development. Wet meadows have been reduced by 75%. Maintenance of adequate migratory bird habitat will require restoration of riparian wetlands and re-operation of the basin's reservoir storage system to provide the required instream flows.

Subject Headings: Streamflow | Rivers and streams | River flow | Ecological restoration | Water storage | Channel bends | Wetlands (fresh water) | Nebraska | United States

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