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Rivers and streams are crucial to Nebraska. They provide habitat to numerous plant, fish and wildlife species, including many that are endangered or protected. They diversify the state's economy and contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by Nebraskans. They are where many Nebraskans go to unwind – to fish, canoe or kayak.

The mission of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is to serve as stewards of the state's fish, wildlife, park, and outdoor recreation resources in the best long-term interests of the people and those resources. To that end, under the direction of the Board of Commissioners, Game and Parks in 2006  began conducting a series of scientific studies to determine the flow needs for maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations, as well as for offering recreational floating opportunities.

As far as rivers go, the Niobrara is one of Nebraska's crown jewels. The Niobrara has a scenic river designation in the reach below Valentine; this designation helped lead to a boom in the tourism economy there, as tourists have visited to canoe, kayak, or tube. It provides roosting habitat for migrating whooping cranes. But this river lacks instream flow protection for public trust fish and wildlife resources.

In Nebraska all water, both on the surface and underground, is owned by the state and how we use this resource is determined by the Legislature. Because human, economic and social health are tied to the ecological heath of our state's rivers, we must ensure each one is managed sustainably and their vitality maintained for future generations. The following links provide an overview to how the Niobrara affects and is affected recreation, industry, the wildlife that lives along the Niobrara and other factors.

Nebraska Game and Parks staff presented these finding during public meetings in Chadron, Valentine, Butte and Lincoln. The presentation staff gave at those meetings is available to the public online.

Studies on Niobrara Instream Appropriations and Water Resources

  • Hydrological Data Analysis of the Niobrara River -2008
    Erkan Istanbulluoglu
    [ download pdf ]

  • USGS - Hydrogeomorphic Segments and Hydraulic Microhabitats of
    the Niobrara River, Nebraska—With Special Emphasis on
    the Niobrara National Scenic River

    Jason S. Alexander, Ronald B. Zelt, and Nathan J. Schaepe
    [ download pdf ]

  • Flows and Recreational Floating on the Niobrara National Scenic River, Nebraska
    Doug Whittaker Ph.D. & Bo Shelby, Ph.D. of Confluence Research and Consulting

    [ download pdf ]

  • Economic & Social Values of Recreational Floating on the Niobrara National Scenic River - Final Report, July 2009
    Steven Shultz, PhD University of Nebraska at Omaha
    [ download pdf ]

  • The Extent and Value of Agricultural, Municipal, and Industrial Water Use in the Niobrara Basin - Final Research Report, December 7, 2010
    Steven Shultz, PhD University of Nebraska at Omaha
    [ download pdf ]

  • Developing Environmental Flows for Fish and Wildlife: A Mesohabitat Study on the Niobrara River - Revised Final Report, June 2014
    Piotr Parasiewicz, Mark Pegg, Joseph Rogers, Adam Behmer, Allan Eldridge
    [ download pdf ]

Nebraska Game and Parks staff traveled throughout the Niobrara basin and to Lincoln to share the findings of the above studies. This Summary Presentation was shared in Chadron, Valentine, Butte and Lincoln.
[ Download Notes ] [ Download Presentation Slide Show ]

Water Conservation and Management

US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) - Lands along the Missouri River

The Corps developed a substantial Mitigation Project to acquire the land needed to develop fish and wildlife habitat from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis, Mo.

Today, the Missouri River hosts a wide variety of interests and uses, all of which are considered in the Missouri River Recovery Program (MRRP). They include social, economic, historical and cultural uses such as agriculture, commerce, conservation, energy, environmental, natural resources, navigation, recreation, residential, urban uses and water supply. 

To locate public lands acquired through the project visit the web site map tool.

To learn more about the Missouri River Recovery Program visit the MRRP portal page

15 year review of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Instream Flow Appropriations on the Central and Lower Platte River are listed below.

Questions and Answers on Instream Flows
  • Correspondence - Game and Parks Letter to Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.
  • Enclosure 1- Beneficial Uses and Public Interest. (16 pages)
  • Enclosure 2- Platte River Catfish Population Dynamics and Tagging Study 2010
  • Enclosure 3- Platte River Catfish Population Dynamics and Tagging Study 2011
  • Enclosure 4- Confirmed Nebraska Whooping Crane Records 1942- 2010 and critical habitat.
  • Enclosure 5- Legal and Public Notices Pursuant to 15 year review.
  • New document - Order granting continued use of Platte River instream appropriations.
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