Interbasin Water Transfer

Audubon Nebraska’s Objection to Diversion of Platte River Water Dismissed

The Proposed Platte-Republican Interbasin Transfer poses serious threat to community and wildlife

Lincoln, Nebraska (December 19, 2022) On Monday, December 12, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources announced its decision that Audubon Nebraska did not have legal standing to challenge a proposed diversion of water from the Platte River.

In 2020, Audubon Nebraska submitted a legal objection to the proposed transfer of streamflow from the Platte River Basin to the Republican River Basin. If approved, this “interbasin transfer” would divert water from one overused river to another, resulting in few long-term benefits to either basin but many ecological costs for both.

The location where water would be diverted out of the Platte River is upstream from Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary, which would be directly harmed by the proposed diversion. This stretch of the Platte River is the world-renowned heart of the Sandhill Crane migration and has been designated as critical habitat for federally endangered and threatened species like the Whooping Crane and Piping Plover. In addition to supporting over 1 million Sandhill Cranes along their spring migration route, the central Platte River is the foundation of a thriving prairie ecosystem that provides innumerable benefits to the citizens of Nebraska.

“This decision is a dishonor to one of Nebraska's natural gems and a huge driver of ecotourism in the State. The proposed diversion will set back conservation efforts and put further strain on the water resources that communities and irrigated agriculture along the Platte River rely upon,” said Melissa Mosier, Audubon Nebraska’s Platte River Program Manager. “Audubon will continue to oppose the proposed interbasin transfer and will stay engaged in this issue. We are committed to working collaboratively with our partners to make sure that the Platte River is protected and continues to provide for Nebraska’s unique biodiversity and agricultural economy.”

Both the Platte and Republican River basins are short on water supply, but high in water demand. Allowing water to be transferred out of the Platte River Basin would be a giant step backward after decades of working with the federal government, Colorado, and Wyoming toward restoring streamflow to the Platte River for endangered species compliance.

Communities throughout Nebraska rely heavily on local agricultural economies supported by water resources. For nearly 50 years, Audubon has been working diligently to ensure that the Platte River will continue to sustain these economic benefits, while also providing clean drinking water, supporting hunting and recreation, providing opportunities for wildlife viewing, and replenishing groundwater supplies to save for times of drought.

About The Platte River Initiative

Platte River faces increasing demands upon its limited and variable water supply. As the North and South Platte Rivers flow down from the Rocky Mountains and bisect one the most endangered and altered grassland ecosystems on earth, their waters are taken out of the river’s channel and used for irrigation, municipal water supplies, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, and recreation. At present, more than 70% of historic flows are diverted before they reach central Nebraska and demands on the water supply continue to grow.

Audubon Nebraska’s Platte River Initiative strategically focuses efforts on partnerships and projects that mitigate pressure points and steer the watershed toward an ecological condition that aligns with the values of community members. We have identified target species, critical habitat, and prominent threats to which Audubon can provide meaningful and productive conservation outcomes. To support the restoration and maintenance of the braided river channel, Audubon and partners have identified a mixture of on-the-ground projects, partnerships with agencies and local communities, and adaptable water management policies.

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