• This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Western Basin Recharge Project – A Status Update

The first year is in the books, and the RWBJV partners successfully delivered over 1,900 acre-feet of water into Funk Waterfowl Production Area (WPA).  Surface water deliveries first reached Funk WPA on November 20, 2018 and were completed one month later.  Multiple partners worked with the staff at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District (RWBWMD) to complete construction, conduct site assessments, and set up a robust monitoring framework.  Project elements included:

  • Installation of an inlet structure and flow meter
  • Installation of a dissipation structure
  • Development of a topographic survey
  • Conducting soils investigations
  • Instrumentation of the wetland with water level monitoring equipment
  • Instrumentation of groundwater wells
  • Hosting public information meetings
  • Overseeing surface water deliveries
  • Monitoring wetland surface levels

Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District provided a surveyor to help collect elevation data for the topographic survey, purchased and installed an inlet structure, participated in the public meeting, and oversaw surface water deliveries.  Ducks Unlimited hired the contractor and provided construction oversight for installation of the outlet structure. They also coordinated the topographic survey and provided a surveyor and survey equipment.  Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided five soil scientists and two probe trucks to complete a soil survey.  Nebraska Department of Natural Resources provided funding for water deliveries.  Tri-Basin Natural Resources District instrumented observation wells to monitor aquifer recharge, provided funding for water deliveries, and hosted the public meeting.  USFWS RWBWMD staff oversaw logistics for the topographic survey and soils investigations, monitored water levels as deliveries occurred, as well as participated in the public information meeting.

To date, the partners have invested $449,270 to make this project a reality.  Total infrastructure costs were $338,185, monitoring and survey elements amounted to $28,555, and water delivery expenses were $82,530.  The high capacity infrastructure allowed surface water deliveries to be made for $21 per acre foot (/ac-ft).  If high capacity groundwater wells are used, the cost is $36/ac-ft.  Having high volume delivery capacity at Funk WPA saves $15/ac-ft when surface water deliveries are available.  In the future, this will save the RWBWMD $28,500 annually compared to the cost of operating the groundwater wells to deliver the same amount of water to Funk WPA.  In reality though, the RWBWMD could actually receive savings worth $82,530 as these deliveries were paid for by Tri-Basin Natural Resources District and Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.  If the monitoring data supports the recharge and instream flow connection, there is significant support to continue to fund deliveries to these wetlands at the local, state, and federal agency levels to achieve Platte and Republican River Basin goals.  Funding for this project has come from a variety of sources, including Nebraska Environmental Trust, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Platte Basin Coalition, RWBWMD, and the USFWS Threatened and Endangered Birds grant.

Recharge monitoring will continue over the next five years at Funk WPA along with the collection of additional monitoring data at the other four Western Basin Recharge Project sites (Cottonwood, Funk, Johnson, Linder, and Victor Lakes WPAs).  Additional wetland restoration activities will also be undertaken at these wetlands over the next two years.  Funding for this restoration work will be made possible by $1.2 million in grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and North American Wetland Conservation Act.  Preliminary plans include the contouring of waterways, excavation of sediment and fill material, and establishment of grass buffers.  If implemented, these actions will increase wetland storage volume and recharge capacity, ensure that adjacent landowners are not impacted by supplemental water deliveries, and help reduce sedimentation into the basins.