New Life for Aging Waters: Nebraska's Aquatic Habitat Program

Monday, September 9, 2013: 4:00 PM
Izard (Statehouse Convention Center)
Mark T. Porath , Aquatic Habitat Program, Fisheries Division, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE
Following the reservoir construction boom, fisheries biologists recognized an emerging problem.  As aquatic habitats began to decline within aging reservoirs, so did fishing participation.   Motivation to take action was substantial as reservoirs support the majority of recreational public fishing opportunities within the state.  Biologists raised awareness of the importance of healthy aquatic habitats and Nebraska anglers strongly supported a legislative initiative to require the purchase of an “Aquatic Habitat Stamp” with their fishing license.   Their support was predicated on the increased revenue being used to rehabilitate aquatic habitats with the aim to improve recreational fishing.  Since 1997, the Nebraska Aquatic Habitat Program has completed 73 rehabilitation projects, using a number of techniques.  Commonly employed strategies include: the removal of accumulated sediments and construction of retention cells; installing hard structures (e.g. breakwaters, wave attenuation, groynes) to modify water-body dynamics; bio-engineering (e.g. vegetation plantings, buffer strips, constructed wetlands, addition of alum) to improve water quality conditions; basin sculpting, substrate modifications, fish renovations and the installation of fish attractors compliment the other tactics and significantly improve recreational fishing.

The cost to rehabilitate these public fisheries was $53,194,391 through 2012.  The Aquatic Habitat Stamp provided $12,813,418 or 24% of the total project costs, partnerships (56) picked up the balance.  Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) is a major partner contributing $13,862,430 to 63 projects, as is Nebraska’s Environmental Trust ($9,438,802) and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality ($6,791,979).  Nebraska’s Aquatic Habitat Program has been successful in building partnerships and leveraging limited fishing license dollars to improve aquatic habitat conditions and recreational fishing in Nebraska.