Rich's Priorities  River Vegetation  

River Vegetation


RICH TESAR was appointed by Governor Dave Heineman in 2007, and reappointed in 2013, to serve on the Riparian Vegetation Management Task Force to save our state's rivers.  Rich was instrumental in developing the Lower Platte River Management Weed Project in conjunction with his service on the Task Force.  Rich serves as the chairman of the Survey and Monitoring Committee on Nebraska's RVM Task Force.


The Situation
The Lower Platte River has become clogged with vegetation.  Once barren, here then gone again sandbars had become heavily vegetated and proven to be quite resistant to the natural scouring process during  high water flows.  This increased streambed vegetation occurred over the seven drought years (2001 - 2008) with lower flows.  The willow predominate vegetation has become a harborage of the noxious weeds purple loosestrife and phragmites.  Their seeds and plant parts coming from upstream were becoming lodged on these vegetated sandbars and were intermingled with the rest of the vegetation.  Control had become quite difficult because of accessibility and interspersion amongst the dense vegetation.  If the vegetation could be controlled and removed from the sandbars to allow for the natural scouring process, these noxious weeds would less likely become established on barren sandbars and lodge along the banks, where they could be more easily controlled.


Coming Our Way
Purple loosestrife was designated a noxious weed in 2001 and began showing up in the Lower Platte River system about the same time. Coordinated efforts began in 2003 providing control of over 4,000 acres.  A few scattered infestations of phragmites (common reed) also were found.  These infestations have increased to over 600 sites in number between the banks of the Platte River in our area.  While these infestations have varied in size from a few plants to a large infestation, 1/4 mile in length, they are expanding very rapidly and will replace all other vegetation if not controlled, as illustrated upstream on the Platte River in central Nebraska.  Phragmites received an emergency designation as a noxious weed in 2008.  Noxious weed control has been the responsibility of the landowner.


The control of the vegetated islands not only resulted in riparian noxious weed control, it also:
• Has improved stream flows
• Lessened the effect of ice jam formation
• Reduced the threat of open water flooding hazards
• Increased plant diversity
• Improved wildlife habitat
• Benefited threatened and endangered species - least tern and piping plover
• Provided better hunting and fishing opportunities
• Improved recreational opportunities
• Increased land values and tax base


Because of the immediate threat of a phragmites population explosion and the many benefits of controlling and keeping the vegetation off the sandbars, the Papio-Missouri River NRD, Lower Platte North NRD, and Lower Platte South NRD are contributing funds and joining with the Lower Platte Weed Management Area in this effort to work with landowners in this Lower Platte Weed Management Project.


Planned Actions
The Papio-Missouri River NRD is cooperating with other governmental entities, including the Lower Platte North NRD, the Lower Platte South NRD, and the Lower Platte River Weed Management Area, under the Nebraska Interlocal Cooperation Act and have committed funds to work with the landowners in controlling this invading vegetation within and adjacent to the Platte River channel.  This control will be done on up to 500 acres of selected sandbars per year, if necessary, in the reach of the Lower Platte River extending from the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge (downstream of Nebraska State Highway 77) to the mouth at the Missouri River.


These efforts will include:
1. A very precise application of an EPA approved aquatic herbicide that will be applied by helicopter utilizing GPS technology sometime during late August to early October each year.  This will be at the current cost of about $200 per acre.
2. Plans are to incorporate spraying, burning, or mechanical removal of the target vegetation, as needed, to promote natural scouring of the sandbars and improve nesting habitat for the piping plover and least tern.
3. Annual surveys will be made by the County Weed Control Authorities to determine follow-up control and maintenance needs.
4. Contacts have been and will continue to be made with the landowners to develop long range riparian vegetation management plans for the Lower Platte River.

Landowner Agreement and Commitments
The commitment and agreement with all landowners is needed to be a part of the project to ensure success with the overall effort and especially for the long term follow-up and maintenance.  Riparian landowners (those landowners who own the bank of the river) are also owners of any accretion land and the stream bed to the center of the river even if not indicated in the riparian landowner's deed.  Each landowner will be provided a map of their land and riparian vegetation management needs, with a landowner commitment agreement.

If you have questions you can contact Douglas, Cass, Sarpy or Saunders County Weed Control Authorities, or the Papio-Missouri River NRD, Lower Platte North NRD, and Lower Platte South NRD.


"Protecting your life, protecting your property, protecting your future."

Please Re-Elect RICH TESAR, Papio NRD Director