Nelson, Hagel unveil bill to protect wildlife of the Platte River: Bi-partisan legislation authorizes Interior secretary to spend $157M on protection efforts


(Note: This is an arbitrary way to appropriate taxpayers dollars to stop agriculture, depopulate rural areas and decimate the tax base -- all under the guise of "protecting" and "restoring" "endangered" species. How could it be further from the truth? People are being herded into cities with their own taxpayer dollars, and still they don't see what's happening. )

March 3, 2007


By Robert Pore [email protected]

The Grand Island Independent

P.O. Box 1208

Grand Island, Nebraska 68802

800-658-3160 or 308-382-1000

Fax: 308-382-8129

To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected] 

Nebraska Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel introduced bi-partisan legislation Friday to fund the federal share of the Platte River recovery program. Along with Nelson and Hagel, Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar are co-sponsors.

The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program officially started on January 1, 2007. Governor Dave Heineman, along with governors from Colorado and Wyoming and the U.S. Secretary of Interior, signed the compact last year.

The recovery plan has been in the works since 1997.

This legislation will authorize the Secretary of Interior to proceed with the program and includes $157 million to carry it out.

The cost will be shared 50/50 by the states and federal government.

The legislation is aimed to improve habitat on the Platte River for four threatened and endangered species, the interior least tern, whooping crane, pallid sturgeon and piping plover.

Nelson said the Platte River is one of Nebraska's "most valuable resources and the lifeblood for communities, farmers and ranchers throughout the state."

He said the recovery program will protect farmers and ranchers water rights while providing benefits for species recovery.

"The Platte River Recovery Implementation Act of 2007 is an effort to improve and maintain habitat for threatened and endangered species while allowing water use and development along the Platte River," he said.

Hagel said Nebraskans are aware of how important water resources are to the state and he looks forward to working with Nelson and the Nebraska Congressional delegation in supporting this program.

According to Mark Czaplewski, biologist for the Central Platte Natural Resources District (NRD), federal funding for the recovery plan is key to its successful implementation.

"If it is to be successful, and given the fact that the primary source of cash for the program is federal, passage of the legislation is important," he said.

The Central Platte NRD opposed Heineman signing the compact. Last year Heineman had three listening sessions on the Platte River compact, including one in Grand Island, to gather input before signing the compact.

At the Grand Island meeting, Ron Bishop, Central Platte NRD manager, said implementing the recovery plan to benefit the four species could come at a huge cost to Nebraska.

Under the agreement, he said, 10,000 acres of wildlife habitat would be restored along the Platte River between Lexington and Chapman and water would have to be added to the river at times when USFWS believes it would benefit the endangered species.

He said mandated delivery of water could mean that some irrigators would have their wells shut down.

"The landowners will be paid according to the program for retiring their irrigated acres, but the seed corn dealers won't be paid for lost sales, nor will equipment dealers or anyone else that has built up a business around here with agriculture," he said.

Consensus at the three meetings, along with an advisory board appointed on that issue, was for Heineman to sign the bill.

Czaplewski, who represents the Central Platte NRD on the Platte River recovery committee, said for the first 13-year phase of the program, Nebraska isn't directly responsible for direct program funding.

"But it is important to remember that while Nebraska is not having to come up with upfront cash, Nebraskans are being asked to make a substantial contribution and will be spending a lot of money in managing its ground and surface water," he said.

Heineman has proposed legislation to come up with state money to cover the cost of implementing the Platte River recovery program, along with addressing water concerns in the Republican River Basin.

Copyright 2007, The Grand Island Independent.