01/31 - 2018 Water Tour Heads West to Colorado and Wyoming

Seminoe Dam Photo

The University of Nebraska’s water and natural resources tour will travel west through the Platte River basin in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming this coming summer.

The tour will feature a visit to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (USBR) North Platte irrigation project in Wyoming – including Pathfinder and Seminoe reservoirs -- as well as points of interest in Colorado and Nebraska.

Organizers have set tour dates for June 26-29 and the event will likely begin and end in Holdrege. It is being planned and supported by the University of Nebraka Water Center, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Nebraska Public Power District, NU’s Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute and UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“The Bureau of Reclamation’s North Platte Project is one of the granddaddies of surface irrigation projects in the west,” said tour co-organizer Steve Ress of the Nebraska Water Center.

The project extends more than 110 miles from Guernsey, Wyo. to Bridgeport, Neb., where it irrigates nearly one-quarter of a million acres. It features about 2,000 miles of canals, laterals and drains and has five main storage dams, the first of which was completed in 1909 under then President Theodore Roosevelt.

“Water stored in the project’s reservoirs ultimately winds-up in Lake McConaughy, so touring the project is a natural follow-on to last year’s tour of irrigation facilities in western Nebraska,” Ress said. “Everyone who works in water and irrigated agriculture in Nebraska needs to see the upper reaches of the Platte, but it is remote, which is part of the reason the tour periodically visits there.”

Tour planning is just beginning, but there is always much in the way of water topics to discuss and things to see along both the North and South branches of the Platte River.

“Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado rely on the waters of the Platte Basin for irrigation, hydropower generation, recreation, wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge and the states are bound to share the water through interstate compacts and decrees,” said co-organizer Jeff Buettner of The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District in Holdrege. “Tour discussions will likely include topics such as water for wildlife habitat, effects on the rivers from invasive species, irrigation efficiency and generation of hydroelectric power.”

Those discussions could also include issues facing local irrigation districts, canal companies, and Natural Resources Districts and an overview of North Platte River operations, Buettner added.

The tour is expected to fill quickly. Registration will be in the spring of 2018 and will be announced well ahead of time.

Planning and registration updates will be posted at watercenter.unl.edu

The tour last visited the North Plate Project in 2014.

Lake McConaughy Photo
Pathfinder Dam Photo