ESA Compliance Through SPWRAP and PRRIP

ESA Compliance Through SPWRAP and PRRIP

South Platte Water Related Activities Program (SPWRAP) is a non-profit that helps represent water users’ interests in Colorado and helps to implement the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) in central Nebraska. Colorado water users may purchase membership in SPWRAP to participate in the PRRIP.

The PRRIP provides streamlined Section 7 Endangered Species Act consultation for specific species through a programmatic biological opinion from June 16, 2006. The species targeted for this recovery effort (known as the “Target Species”) includes the interior least tern (Sternula antillarum), pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus), the northern Great Plains population of the piping plover (Charadrius melodus), and the whooping crane (Grus americana). In addition, the western prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera praeclara) is included in this consultation.

When a project is “covered by the PRRIP program” it means that its impacts have already been accounted for in the 2006 biological opinion for the PRRIP. Being covered under the PRRIP program allows users to receive a boilerplate “tiered BO” from USFWS confirming that project activities are covered and that consultation for the downstream target species and western prairie fringed orchid is complete. It’s important to note that this does not cover on-site impacts to other federally-listed species (e.g., Preble’s meadow jumping mouse or Ute’s ladies-tresses orchid). These species should be addressed separately on a project-specific basis during the consultation process.

For projects in the North Platte River Basin of Colorado, membership in SPWRAP is not required to participate in the PRRIP program. Projects in the South Platte River basin of Colorado are required to have membership in the SPWRAP if they plan to seek ESA compliance through the PRRIP.

Membership is not required for State agencies, and participation in the PRRIP is voluntary.

An alternative to using the program is to complete the normal Section 7 consultation process like you would for any other species. This route would involve completing your own biological assessment (BA) and consulting independently with USFWS.

Membership in SPWRAP varies based on the type of depletion (new vs existing) and the amount of the anticipated depletion:


One-time depletions

For one-time depletions to Platte River flows and projects using less than 25 acre-feet/year of water (“minor users”), SPWRAP has established special membership categories that offer certification based on a one-time payment.

For ongoing depletions associated with water uses exceeding 25 acre-feet/year, SPWRAP membership requires an annual payment based on water use.

New depletions

New depletions include activities relating to surface water or hydrologically-connected groundwater implemented after July 1, 1997. An example of a new depletion would be excavating a new on-line pond adjacent to the South Platte River. Expansion of existing projects which create additional depletions are also considered new depletions, such as creating additional wetland areas adjacent to a water feature with a downstream connection to the South Platte River. These additional wetland areas will reduce the water available to downstream areas of the South Platte River, therefore creating additional depletions.

Existing depletions

Existing depletions include activities relating to surface water or hydrologically-connected groundwater implemented on or before July 1, 1997.

Projects anticipating only minimal water depletions may fall under the De Minimis Exception. Water-related activities that result in less than 0.1 acre-foot/year of depletions in flow to the nearest surface water tributary to the Platte River system have an insignificant effect and do not require consultation with the USFWS.

The SPWRAP tries to ensure that all water users “pay their fair share” for water they use.  As a result, water users who delay becoming members are required to pay assessments for all prior years, plus compound interest, at the time they do join. Backpay assessments are calculated back to the beginning of 2007.

Membership Classes:

  • Class A – Agricultural
  • Class I – Industrial
  • Class I-2 – (Oil and Gas Well Development in the South Platte Basin)
  • Class I-3 – (O&G development in the north Platte Basin)
  • Class M – Municipal
  • Class W – Water Conservancy & Water Conservation Districts
  • Class X-4 – Municipal
  • Class X-5 – Use of untreated agricultural ditch water to irrigate parks & golf courses
  • Class X-6 – Open Space Membership

Do you have a project that may benefit from membership in the SPWRAP?

Enter the net cut amounts (in cubic yards) planned in Waters of the United States (WOTUS) for your project into our calculator below to determine your approximate acre-foot depletions:


Share: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus

Leave a Comment: