Collaborative Conservation for Waterfowl Habitat and Groundwater Recharge
RWBJV partners, including Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (CNPPID), Ducks Unlimited, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Tri-Basin Natural Resources District, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District (USFWS RWB WMD) have completed all project elements funded through the Platte Basin Collation (PBC) Western Basins project. PBC funding leveraged was leveraged with RWBJV partner funds to modify infrastructure at Cottonwood, Funk, Johnson, Linder, and Victor Lakes Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) to support surface water deliveries. The USFWS RWB WMD manages these properties. In addition to the physical infrastructure for water deliveries, groundwater monitoring wells, topographic surveys, surface water level monitoring equipment have been installed to evaluate habitat availability and groundwater recharge. The RWBJV is contracting a hydrologist to oversee wetland instrumentation, data collection, and groundwater recharge monitoring and modeling efforts. This data will help inform multiple RWBJV partners on how wetland restoration, enhancement, and management can be used as a unique tool to achieve multiple objectives including waterfowl habitat, groundwater recharge, and instream flow targets for the state of Nebraska.
As part of this project, Funk WPA was the first to be enhanced with new infrastructure. In the fall of 2018, the canal network managed by CNPPID was modified with a 36-inch delivery line to Funk WPA. This infrastructure delivered 1,900 acre-feet of water into Funk WPA during the fall of 2018. This summer and fall an 18-inch pipeline was installed to Linder, while 24 delivery pipelines were installed to Cottonwood and Johnson WPAs, and a 28-inch pipeline was installed at Victor Lakes WPA. These pipelines were sized to allow these wetlands to be filled in a seven day period after the Whooping Crane Migration season (November 15th). This larger infrastructure ensures water can quickly be delivered and minimizes canal operation during late fall and winter under freezing conditions when damage can occur to the system by ice. This infrastructure provided an opportunity to deliver 500 acre-feet of water to Victor Lakes WPA this month. This one of the latest deliveries CNPPID has completed using their canal system outside of the normal irrigation season. Later delivery dates maximize water deliveries to these wetlands by reducing evaporation and evapotranspiration by actively growing plants. Water deliveries in November and December also saturate the soils maximizing the probability that these wetlands will pond water from runoff and provide habitat for spring migrating waterfowl and other wetland dependent birds.
The RWBJV partners are committed to the monitoring elements outlined in the proposal to the PBC. As part of this project the partners have installed seven additional groundwater wells, instrumented all five wetlands with a radar based water surface monitoring equipment, and conducted soils as well as topographic surveys. Data collected from these different activities will be used to calibrate the Soil, Plant, Air, and Water (SPAW) Model that is being used to evaluate ecosystem services (Groundwater Recharge, Groundwater Quality, and Wildlife Habitat) associated with this project. The goal will be to summarize and present results from the Funk and Victor Lakes assessments in the coming months.