Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

May 1996


Published in Great Plains Research 6:1 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Changes in wetlands in the vicinity of the Phelps and £65 canals operated by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District in South-central Nebraska were examined using aerial photographs taken on seven occasions from 1938 to 1981. According to previous research, nearly 90% of the original wetlands within the surrounding Rainwater Basin were destroyed or altered by draining and filling between 1900 and 1980. Within a zone extending 10 kilometers on each side of the Phelps and £65 canals, however, we observed an increase in the number and total area of wetlands, which we hypothesize to have been caused by an elevated groundwater table. Of additional importance for wildlife management, there was a notable decrease in wetlands temporarily flooded for 2 months or less, and a notable increase in wetlands seasonally flooded for 3 to 5 months each year. These changes were most conspicuous after 1969.