Still cannot tell you a lot of specifics about the impacts of the unprecedented flooding that has occurred recently across Nebraska. Certainly, at this point we know the loss to families and their homes, possessions, businesses and livestock have been huge, heart-breaking. Losses to fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation are going to be significant as well, but nothing in comparison to what many of our fellow Nebraskans are suffering right now.
You know that my expertise is mostly on the fish side of things and I can tell you we have had some significant losses. First of all, we have a page of parks and recreation areas that have been impacted, so be sure that you check that, Severe Weather Closures. Check that page from time to time because it will be updated as conditions change and improve.
We had some damage to a couple of our state fish hatcheries. The most significant of that was at our Grove Trout Rearing Station. Grove produces a lot of the trout that are stocked around the state, stockings we would be doing right now if it were not for the late ice cover and then flooding we have experienced. The good news is that we did not lose any trout at Grove. The bad news is that we had road damage and cannot get trucks to the ponds right now so that they can be loaded and fish can be stocked. We are working on that and expect that more trout stocking will be happening in the coming weeks, but all I can tell you is to “stay tuned”. We have been issuing news releases on trout stockings when we have been able to do them, and I anticipate that there will continue to be frequent updates on those stockings as we are able to do more.
On the topic of spring trout stockings, some of those are not going to happen this spring because some of the destination waterbodies flooded. I hate to say it, but Two Rivers State Recreation Area is closed, and from what I have heard damage has been extensive on that area. There are no plans at this time for opening the Trout Lake.
We have a number of sandpit fisheries on the Two Rivers, Louisville and Fremont Lakes state recreation areas (SRAs). All three of those areas are adjacent to the Platte River and all three had extensive flooding. Depending on the area there has been significant damage. From a fisheries standpoint, any of those pits that flooded will likely have rough fish present and may need renovation. Again, let me emphasize that it is going to take a while to sort all of this out and know exactly how we are going to proceed, but those are the kind of things we are dealing with.
As I understand it, new river channels have cut through at least a portion of the Fremont Lakes SRA and through some of the pits, lake #20 in particular. There will be major changes to the pits and fisheries on Fremont Lakes. That area also is closed right now.
Flooding on our major rivers has captured all the headlines, but many smaller rivers and streams have also experienced unprecedented high water events and in fact some of those are still ongoing. I have heard some preliminary reports of what some of those streams look like, some of them trout streams, and they will be different after this flooding. Habitat conditions will be different. Keep in mind that high water events are an important part of river and stream ecosystems and many of the habitat changes will be beneficial once water levels return to “normal”. Some stocking may be needed on some of those waters, but it will take us time to evaluate and determine what management actions will be necessary.
There are not a lot of details yet, because we are still trying to “dig out” and evaluate it all. Recovery is going to take time, and we are all going to have to be patient.
One thing has been evident in the past couple of weeks, Nebraskans have rallied together to help friends, family and neighbors, and all of us are “friends”, “families” and “neighbors”. Never had any doubt that would be the case. That will continue as we recover, we are all going to be a part. We will continue to step up and be NebraskaStrong.