On a cold winter-like Tuesday afternoon, earth-moving equipment and a tractor pulling a disc carved contours for water-holding cells on a 400-acre site along the Platte River southwest of Elm Creek.
The cells are part of a unique project to divert and then temporarily hold Platte River water at times when river flows exceed targets set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for threatened and endangered species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The water initially will be transported in Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s Phelps Canal, and then from the canal to the west end of the broad-scale project site through a 1½-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline.
Water in the project cells will leach into groundwater and eventually return to the nearby river.
The water retiming project will help Platte River Recovery Implementation Program participants — U.S. Department of Interior, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming — reduce shortages to target flows for whooping cranes, least terns and piping plovers in the Central Platte and pallid sturgeon in the Lower Platte River.