Platte River Irrigation Development: Hydrologic Myths

by Gary L. Lewis, EA Engineering, Science, & Technology Inc, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

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


Several proposed municipal and irrigation developments in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska could impact flows along the Platte River in central Nebraska. Opposition to these projects is centered in two quarters - preservation interests and downstream municipal users. The objectors have centered their opposition on impacts in a 70-mile reach from Overton to Grand Island, called the Big Bend. This part of the river contains habitat considered important to the endangered bald eagle. In the past 50 years, the channel has experienced considerable narrowing and vegetative encroachment. The cause is greatly disputed. Research by the author has proved that channel encroachment was not caused by flow changes. The objectors have also hypothesized limits on instream flows other than those for removing vegetation, and have proposed several annual hydrographs of flows needed to accomplish various month-to-month objectives. Most suggest that more flow always results in better habitat. This paper evaluates several from a hydrologic and sediment transport perspective.

Subject Headings: Rivers and streams | Irrigation | Hydrology | Local government | Vegetation | Instream flow | Sediment transport | Islands | United States | Nebraska | Wyoming | Colorado

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