Platte River Recovery

Northern Water is one of the voluntary participants in the Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program, which aims to protect and restore endangered species’ habitat in the Platte River basin.

The states of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, and the U.S. Department of the Interior are pooling their efforts to recover three endangered birds and one fish:

  • Whooping crane
  • Least tern
  • Piping plover
  • Pallid sturgeon (fish)
Their habitat includes the Platte River basin in central Nebraska.

Water Operations and Habitat CoexistBy protecting these species’ habitat, the program will enable existing Platte River basin water projects to continue operating and allow new water projects to develop in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

The program originated in 1994 when the three states and the Department of the Interior agreed to protect 10,000 acres of habitat and provide 130,000 to 150,000 additional acre feet of water in the Big Bend Reach, an 80-mile stretch of the Platte River between Overton and Chapman, NE.
Northern Water a Principal NegotiatorNorthern Water has been a principal negotiator from the beginning of the program. Alan Berryman, Senior Water Resources Engineer at Northern Water, is on the board of directors for the South Platte Water Related Activities Program, a group of 60 Colorado water users that include municipal, agricultural and industrial interests.
The SPWRAP group is raising $12 million to provide 10,000 acre feet of water to South Platte habitats during critical times of the year for certain species, such as increased flows in early spring for the whooping crane.

The Tamarack Project
Part of the Platte recovery work is the Tamarack Project, which includes ponds located at key distances from the South Platte River at the Tamarack Ranch State Wildlife Area between Sterling and Julesberg, CO.

South Platte water is pumped to the ponds when water demands are low and there is excess water in the river. The water in the ponds seeps into the ground recharging – or refilling – the aquifer where groundwater is stored. The aquifer, in turn, releases this recharged water to the river over time.
This recharge process enhances wildlife habitat at Tamarack and increases South Platte flows at key times by contributing 10,000 acre feet to the Platte recovery program.

The Tamarack Project and many similar projects in the Platte River basin will be completed in the first 13-year increment of the Platte River Recovery and Implementation Program, which began on Jan. 1, 2007.

South Platte River water is pumped into the ponds when demands are low.
South Platte River water is pumped into the ponds when demands are low. The water seeps into ground and recharges the aquifer.

Tamarack Demonstration Project Location Map