06 July 2010

La Platte Bottoms Featured in Audubon Newsletter

The following article was written by Jerry Toll, current president of the Audubon Society of Omaha, for their newsletter, the Meadowlark. It is given here with his permission.

The La Platte wetlands have been a place for local birders to see migrating wetland birds for many years. Most years it holds water and attracts wading and shorebirds but being an ephemeral wetland in a dry spring, little water is there. This wet spring (and now summer) it has had plenty of standing water and has attracted impressive numbers and diversity. If you haven’t been there, it is located in southeastern Sarpy County south of Bellevue and east of the village of La Platte off Highway 75. A proposed highway bypass connecting I-29 in Iowa and the Highway 75 will pass through The La Platte wetlands. The current plan is to bisect the wetlands near where East La Platte Road turns north which is south of the Papio Creek. It will adversely affect the use of the wetland by wetland birds by fragmentation and brings heavy traffic into the wetland deterring bird usage. The filling of the roadway may have an effect on the hydrology of the wetlands but I have not seen any discussion on that perspective. The plan calls for close to 5 acres be mitigated but there is discussion that the area impacted is actually larger for which a 404 permit has not been issued. Jim Ducey who seems to be spearheading the effort to protect the wetland is recommending that the original 404 permit is invalided and is calling for a review which would include public hearings. Unfortunately, the Bypass project is well along and the monies for the Missouri River Bridge have already been appropriated through congress. Ducey is suggesting that the bridge be moved upstream closer to the Papio Creek thus greatly diminishing the impact on the La Platte wetlands. Another concern is the land under consideration to replace the mitigated wetland lost. It is located south of the Platte River sandwiched between a gravel pit operation with heavy train traffic and the old highway into Plattsmouth.

Loren and Babs Padelford had this to say in their letter to the Corp of Engineers. "The proposed mitigation site in Cass County is not as close to the Missouri and Platte Rivers. Also it is bordered on the north end by an active railroad line, which is a disturbing factor for migrating wildlife. The present wetland is very suitable for shorebirds because in dry years it’s cultivated. This is beneficial because it does not allow cottonwood trees and other heavy vegetation to grow up, thus keeping the habitat open and accessible for use by shorebirds and waterfowl. It seems that the farmland adjacent and to the west of the current wetland would have been a more appropriate site for mitigation because it also floods and is located near the present site in Sarpy County."