Nebraska Announces $ 500 Million Plan to Reclaim Colorado Water | Local News
Nebraska Announces $ 500 Million Plan to Reclaim Colorado Water
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts on Monday announced a $ 500 million plan to divert Colorado water as part of a 99-year-old state-to-state agreement that allows Nebraska to seize access to Colorado lands along the South Platte River. and build canals.
Ricketts said Nebraska would invoke its rights under the South Platte River Compact, fearing that Colorado’s plans for the river could reduce water flows in its state by up to 90%, potentially having a potentially huge impact on agriculture and energy industries in Nebraska and probably affecting water supplies in the state’s two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln.
“We are very concerned about what will happen with these projects,” Ricketts, a Republican, said at a press conference. The reduction in flow “is going to have a dramatic impact on our ability to feed the world.”
The Compact, approved in 1923, is an interstate water sharing agreement that gives Nebraska 120 cubic feet per second (897.6 gallons) from the river during the irrigation season between April 1 and 15 October, and 500 cubic feet per second (3,740 gallons) during the non-irrigation season.
Under the contract, Nebraska may construct, maintain, and operate canals within Colorado’s borders that divert water from the South Platte River for use by Nebraska. It also gives Nebraska the power to buy land from Colorado landowners or access it by invoking eminent domain. Nebraska’s decision is likely to trigger interstate lawsuits.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, a Republican, said Colorado had issued water use permits that would reduce Nebraska’s legitimate share.
“It’s critical that we are able to sustain these flows,” Peterson said.
Colorado released a report this month that identified 282 new projects in the South Platte River Basin on their side of the border, at a total cost of $ 9.87 billion.
According to the report, Colorado’s population living in the river basin is expected to increase by 42% to 70% between 2015 and 2050, creating increased demand for water. The report also warned that climate change could reduce stream flows and displace snowmelt patterns earlier in the year, while creating greater agricultural demand for water.
A spokesperson for Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the governor was looking into the matter.
“The governor just learned of this situation this morning and we are working to better understand it at this time, including a legal and operational analysis,” said press secretary Conor Cahill. “Governor Polis continues to oppose the diversion of precious Colorado water resources.”
The South Platte River flows northeast of the fast-growing Colorado Border Range and into Nebraska, where it merges with the North Platte River to form the Platte River before crossing through the rest of the state.
Ricketts declined to reveal where Nebraska would get the money to pay for the project, saying he would release more details in his annual state-of-the-state address to lawmakers on Thursday. He said Nebraska started working on a canal before World War I but abandoned the project, part of which can still be seen from Interstate 80 near Julesburg, Colo.
Peterson said the canal would feed a reservoir that would store water for Nebraska’s use. He said officials in Nebraska were increasingly concerned about Colorado’s ability to provide water as it faces its own shortages.
Nebraska and Colorado have been at odds on several occasions in recent years, most notably with Colorado’s early legalization of recreational marijuana. The move has been criticized by governors and law enforcement officials in Nebraska, a conservative state that has steadfastly refused to allow drugs in any form.
Last year, Ricketts denounced Polis’ decision to sign a non-binding proclimation that encouraged people to avoid meat one day a week, calling it a “direct attack on our way of life” and signing his own declaration in meat favor.
Meanwhile, Nebraska has also announced plans to spend around $ 200 million on statewide water supply projects. Plans include the construction of a marina in the McConaughy Lake State Recreation Area in western Nebraska, a visitor lodge and other improvements to Niobrara State Park and a proposed lake of 4 000 acres located between Omaha and Lincoln.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Mike Hilgers said the measure would help boost Nebraska’s economy, tourism and recreational offerings. The combined projects would generate an estimated $ 5.6 billion in economic activity during construction, according to legislative estimates.
“We know our water resources are incredibly critical to this state,” said Hilgers of Lincoln.
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