US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Open-File Report 2009-1147 (2009) 31 p.


Fluvial geomorphic data were collected by the United States Geological Survey from July 2005 to June 2008 (a time period within water years 2005 to 2008) to monitor the effects of habitat enhancement activities conducted in the Platte River Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust’s Uridil Property, located along the Platte River, Nebraska. The activities involved the removal of vegetation and sand from the tops of high permanent islands and the placement of the sand into the active river channel. This strategy was intended to enhance habitat for migratory water birds by lowering the elevations of the high islands, thereby eliminating a visual obstruction for roosting birds. It was also thought that the bare sand on the lowered island surfaces could serve as potential habitat for nesting water birds. Lastly, the project supplied a local source of sediment to the river to test the hypothesis that this material could contribute to the formation of lower sandbars and potential nesting sites downstream. Topographic surveys on the islands and along river transects were used to quantify the volume of removed sand and track the storage and movement of the introduced sand downstream. Sediment samples were also collected to map the spatial distribution of river bed sediment sizes before and after the management activities. While the project lowered the elevation of high islands, observations of the sand addition indicated the relatively fine-grained sand that was placed in the active river channel was rapidly transported by the flowing water. Topographic measurements made 3 months after the sand addition along transects in the area of sediment addition showed net aggradation over measurements made in 2005. In the year following the sand addition, 2007, elevated river flows from local rain events generally were accompanied by net degradation along transects within the area of sediment addition. In the spring of 2008, a large magnitude flow event of approximately 360 cubic meters per second occurred in the study reach and was accompanied by net aggradation in the managed area. These observations illustrate the high sediment transport capacity of the river channel both at lower flows, when the sand was added, and during higher flow events. This field experiment also serves as a practical example of the dynamic response of a Platte River channel to a relatively small-scale sand augmentation project directed toward enhancing in-channel habitat for avian species.