10/27 - Water and natural resources tour to examine Platte River basin issues June 27-29, 2017

The next Water and Natural Resources Tour will examine surface and groundwater issues in the central Platte River basin June 27-29, 2017.

“This is a critical stretch of the (Platte) river that has many faceted and far-reaching impacts on all Nebraskans. It is tremendously important for agriculture, Nebraska’s economy, recreation, hydropower production, fish and wildlife and many others issues,” said Steve Ress, communicator for the University of Nebraska’s Nebraska Water Center, part of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute (WFI).

The water center and WFI co-host and help plan the annual tour with The Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, among others.

They began as summer irrigation field tours that were initiated by then UNL Chancellor D.B. “Woody” Varner more than 40 years ago.

“The scope and emphasis of the tours has evolved and broadened since then to encompass many other water and environmental-related topics impacting Nebraska,” Ress said.

Early planning and discussions for the three-day tour have stressed touching on all of the sometimes competing uses for the basin’s waters as they flow slowly east to the Missouri River.

Surface and groundwater irrigation, water rights, production of hydropower and water for fish and life and for recreation will be high among the list of topics.

It is likely the tour will begin and end in Holdrege. 

Points of interest on the tour could include organic farming near Bertrand, irrigation and hydropower production by CNPPID and Nebraska Public Power District, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission facilities, area Natural Resources District projects, origins of surface irrigation and the beginnings of large-scale irrigation projects in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Also being considered are stops at Frito-Lay’s Gothenburg Corn Handling Facility and Monsanto’s Water Utilization Learning Center.

Cropping and irrigation technology experts at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte will be on the tour’s agenda, along with a stop at the North Platte Fish Hatchery and at newly completed water transfer and pipeline facilities built by the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (or NCOREPE).

As the tour moves west, focus will shift to Lake McConaughy and the Ogallala area with a possible tour not only of Lake McConaughy facilities, but also of NPPD’s coal-powered Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland.

A canoe or kayaking trip in the Plum Creek Reservoir/Gallagher Canyon area is being considered on the tour’s third and final day.

“We want to include as many entities and organizations with a stake in using the basin’s waters as we possibly can and to presenting as broad an overview of why this stretch of the river is so important to all of us as we can in three days,” Ress said.

The latest tour information will be online at watercenter.unl.edu Organizers anticipate limiting registrations to about 55 people to opening registration in early May 2017.