Public input scarce at PRRIP meeting

© 2017-Lingle Guide

TORRINGTON – A sparse crowd attended a public discussion session on the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program on Wednesday evening in Torrington. When the project was introduced more than 10 years ago, dozens of people participated in public meetings to learn about the program and how it would affect them.

Only 10 residents met with the nine government agency representatives in the Brand Room at the Rendezvous Center on the Goshen County Fairgrounds. Questions and comments were few, some related to other departments
and programs.

Jerry Kenny, executive director of the PRRIP, headquartered in Kearney, Neb., said the program, which has focused early efforts on maintaining and increasing the numbers of the five endangered species, has been successful, but more needs to be done.

“We feel good about what has been done to improve conditions for the wildlife and to be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act,” Kenny said following the meeting. “If we keep doing what we have been, we’ll be able to take care of the targeted
species.”

The PRRIP was approved by Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2007. The first 13-year increment will expire in 2019. Ten milestones were set for the first increment. They related to increased water supplies and land for wildlife. All targets but one have been achieved. Securing the targeted amount of water has not been accomplished.

Most of the visible changes have been in the Central Platte where land acquisitions helped increase wildlife habitat. The number of whooping crane, pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and piping plover has increased. 

The weak spot in the plan is water. The program is short about 30,000-40,000 acre-feet of the goal in the Central Platte area. Various means of achieving the water goal have been and are being studied, according to Kenny.

One option being tested is a slurry-sealed deep “pond” that would act as a small reservoir. Size would be determined by several factors. 

A 13-year extension would not only provide time to acquire more water, but to also conduct more scientific studies on how water impacts the birds, and how they respond to adequate water in their environments. The extension would include six to seven years to acquire the water, with an additional four years to study the data.

“It would help us determine the best way to use the water,” said Matt Rabbe of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Nebraska Ecology Services.

Harry LaBonde, director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, said, “It’s working very well. The first 13 years of results are good, and the extension would give us time to do more science.”

Those interested in contributing to the scoping process can submit comments to Bureau of Reclamation, Attention: Mr. Brock Merrill, P.O. Box 950, Torrington, WY 82240, or email: [email protected]

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