07 December 2012

Efforts Determined to Conserve Green-space at Platte Confluence

Further steps will occur to conserve a vitally important green-space on the north side of the Platte River at its confluence with the Missouri River.

"Issue no. 1" is to find a means to purchase property at the site from at two primary land-owners, Arcadian Fertilizer L.P. (a.k.a. PCS Nitrogen) and the Metropolitan Utilities District. Overall, the area spreads across more than 600 acres, southeast of LaPlatte along the Platte River side of a floodwater levee, eastward of the natural bluff and tree-line where there is a relict of a former oxbow, and south of LaPlatte Road and the under construction Highway 34 road alignment.

To help with this goal, a depiction of the site will be prepared — according to a verbal commitment — to suggest what amenities of other features which might occur at the site once it became public property.

In January, a "phase 1" report will be presented to the Back-to-the-River group, by the Bug Muddy Workshop, which this group focused on the Missouri River, hired in this regard. This document, according to two representatives, will be shared with attendees present at a Thursday afternoon, in the board room of the Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District.

It was a unique confluence of stake-holders. There was candid conversation by more than 30 people gathered to discuss the future of some land at the river confluence. The meeting which resulted from a personal request, was a lively discussion of issues of concern.

Attendees included several people from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Back to the River organization, the City of Bellevue including planning staff, three men from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, an executive director of the Nebraska Environmental Trust, men interested in fish from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Olsson Associates, staff of the Papio-Missouri NRD, a lawyer for PCS Nitrogen, PYRA Engineering since they are working on the levee situation, Sarpy County, United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a couple of individuals interested in the place, and a representative from office of Senator Benjamin Nelson./P>

Attendees at meeting to discuss conservation of green-space at the Platte River confluence.

It was a meeting essential to determine the situation at the site and what it will look like years from now.

The meeting was hosted by the NRD at their office at Wehrspan Lake and they deserve accolades for making it happen.

Primary topics discussed, based upon an agenda issued before the meeting via email, were:

  1. potential levee setback, its reasons and rationale, and how it might influence down-river navigation on the Missouri River;
  2. site contamination issues, which comprised a large portion of the meeting's discussion;
  3. reasons and rationale for conserving the confluence area as a public resource because of its aesthetic, cultural, historic and wildlife significance now, and into the future.

It was certainly a pointed discussion, and once the opportunity to talk spread among the entire group, it was even livelier. Considering the number 1 issue expressed by a single man, it was somewhat obvious that a large majority, if not each person in the room, agreed upon the importance of conserving the green space at this place, based upon the confines denoted upon a map image shown upon the east wall of the room.

The meeting was about details. For the Army Corps of Engineers, any acquisition of the site is not a priority, due concerns agency staff have previously indicated.

It then became apparent that any effort to acquire the property should depend upon other sources, according to a common consensus. There are a number of optional opportunities, but any actual efforts are not known.

Based upon the overall consensus, there is a some hope that the setting will continue to be a space which the public could enjoy soon ... or at least during future years of bird-watching or other outdoor endeavors.

Nearby this site, the NRD has requested funds from the Nebraska Environmental Trust to buy properties at the former Iske Place, and convert the wooded area along the river into a green-space. The land was inundated during the Flood of 2011, and a common theme of discussion was about how the current owner would indicate a value for land subject to massive flooding.