- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

WOOD RIVER, Neb. (AP) - The executive director of a program to enhance habitats for endangered waterfowl says his organization’s Platte River island work did not cause flooding along a road in Wood River.

The Grand Island Independent (https://bit.ly/1CeUlGV ) reports that Jerry Kenny spoke to the Hall County board Tuesday, two weeks after the board heard testimony from landowners who live along Shoemaker Island Road. The landowners say nesting islands created and altered by the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program is responsible for the ice jam flooding that damaged road, pastures and cropland in February.

Kenny said the program’s work, which has been testing whether least terns and piping plovers need nesting ground in the river as opposed to along it, was permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“You can see that does not dam, block, divert or obstruct the channel,” Kenny said as he showed a PowerPoint picture of the river pre- and post-project work.

The director said the Platte River backed up from an ice jam at a 400-foot-wide point upstream of the nesting islands on land that the recovery program does not own or have access to. Kenny said that backup was the cause of flooding.

Some of the landowners who were at Kenny’s presentation and board members questioned the program’s choice of location for the nesting islands and its alteration of the river.

“It gives the appearance that you’ve caused the problem,” supervisor Steve Schuppan told Kenny.

Mike Dobesh, a Wood River farmer and former member of the Central Platte Natural Resources board, says increased flooding in the area should have been anticipated. He also says possible payouts should have been included in the program for affected landowners in its Environmental Impact Statement.

Dobesh questioned why the program’s work has continued since the least terns have reached a population level nationally that makes it eligible to be removed from the endangered species list.

Kenny said the process to have them removed from the list has not been done yet, so research had not been halted.

___

Information from: The Grand Island Independent, https://www.theindependent.com

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