Lower South Platte River artificial wetlands update

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The loss of duck habitat in the South Platte River basin, which is at least partly the result of man-made alteration of the river to make it flow like a channel, is likely a major reason for a decline in duck populations by as much as 50 percent in some parts of eastern Colorado.

The newly created duck habitat is designed to mimic natural conditions. Colorado has gained 16,000 acres of artificial wetlands at about 100 areas along the South Platte, with plans for another 11,000 acres by 2014, funded in part by $1.5 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Hundreds of duck hunters held banquets and auctions statewide, and ponied up $150,000 for the effort.

Water is pumped and piped from the South Platte to ponds carved out of adjacent prairie. This water then is routed through sloughs and filtered back into the river’s main stem. Diversion of water into wetlands is done during low-demand periods and builds water credits for participating landowners, giving some the ability to draw water for farming…

The long-term future for waterfowl looks bleak, said Dave Sharp, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. “Our needs for water are only going to grow,” Sharp said. Dams and diversions for cities and farming “take away those natural pulses, like in the spring. The flooding that used to occur no longer occurs,” he said. Woody vegetation also is taking over sand bars essential for ducks.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

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