Releases expected to continue until May 10
Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:15 pm
KEARNEY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started releasing into the Platte River water from its environmental account stored in Lake McConaughy
primarily to benefit endangered whooping cranes during their migration stopover in central Nebraska.
The releases started Saturday and are expected to continue until May 10. They should increase Overton-to-Grand Island flows to about 1,700 cubic feet per second.
That is the minimum flow in a dry year that USFWS officials believe is necessary to provide and maintain adequate roosting and feeding habitat for whooping cranes on the Platte River. Such flows are not unusual at this time of year and are well-below flood levels.
All the environmental account water should be past Grand Island by around May 24.Whooping cranes use the Central Flyway to migrate to Canada for the summer. It’s the same route used by hundreds of thousands of other migrating birds, including around 500,000 sandhill cranes. They all stop in the Central Platte Valley in March and April to feed in area fields and roost overnight in the river.
The environmental account was established in 1999 and is managed by the USFWS to benefit four federally listed threatened or endangered species — whooping cranes, least terns, piping plovers and pallid sturgeon.