Abstract: Session A  8:55 am (Back to Session A)
Restoring the North Platte River: Implementation and Monitoring of Holistic Restoration Projects Through the Heart of Casper, Wyoming

T.C. Dinkins
Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.
Fort Collins, CO

Authors: Timothy C. Dinkins (Stantec) and Del Lobb (Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

The North Platte River is one of the most significant rivers in the American West, from before westward expansion to the present day. The North Platte originates in Colorado, flows North into Wyoming, and then flows east into Nebraska where it joins the South Platte River, forming the Platte River. In the early 1900’s several major dams were constructed upstream of Casper, Wyoming to provide irrigation of semi-arid lands in Wyoming. The introduction of large dams and resulting reservoirs drastically changed the quantity of alluvial sediment that had been transported through the river system for eons, which ultimately led to a gradual geomorphological evolution of both the North Platte and Platte rivers downstream.

In the past 100 years the North Platte’s stable form has transitioned from exceptionally wide and shallow to a narrower and deeper channel in response to the change in sediment regime. Upstream of Casper, the gradual change in geomorphology has created some of the best trout habitat in the country. However, although the North Platte River through Casper is classified as blue ribbon trout water, invasive Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)and bank instability and channel widening associated with urban development have reduced the aesthetic and natural values of riparian and stream habitats.

In 2012, the City of Casper hired Stantec Consulting Services Inc. to develop a master plan to identify and explore potential river restoration opportunities for stabilizing river banks, preserving the natural beauty of the river, and enhancing riparian vegetation, ecosystem services, and fish habitat. From the master plan, seven reaches were identified throughout the city limits, and in the four years since, Stantec has designed and implemented two projects totalling over 8,000 LF of river.  This presentation will discuss 1) a brief history of the North Platte River and its geomorphic evolution; 2) Stantec’s watershed assessment and Master Planning for the North Platte 3)  the river restoration design process, construction challenges, lessons learned; and 4) preliminary results of geomorphic/biological monitoring by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department following completion of the first two restoration projects on the North Platte River in the City of Casper.