Plan to divert water from the Platte to the Republican River heard

Water would be piped from a canal off the Platte River through Turkey Creek Canyon, shown here, to the Republican River (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
June 28, 2019 - 5:42pm

A plan to divert water from the Platte to the Republican River drew support and opposition at a public hearing Friday.

The idea is to take water from the Platte and send it south to the Republican, so Nebraska can send enough water down the Republican to satisfy its obligations to Kansas under an interstate compact. When Nebraska failed to do that last decade, it wound up costing the state $5.5 million. The proposed diversion is intended to prevent that, and allow farmers in the Republican River valley to continue to irrigate their crops.

Lawyer David Bargen represents the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, -- “Central” for short -- which controls the canals the water would be taken from, and the Tri-Basin and Lower Republican Natural Resources Districts, where farmers would suffer if not enough water is available. Bargen said the project would be a win-win. “The application makes clear that the beneficial use of the appropriation would run to the benefit of the citizens of Nebraska and the irrigators and residents of the Republican River basin, Bargen said.

The proposal is opposed by other Natural Resources Districts along the Platte River. Adam Hoesing represents the North Platte NRD. Hoesing made his client’s belief clear. “The sole real benefit going back to Central is money,” he said.

NET News calculates in an average year, Central could collect around $1 million dollars for transferring water, although in years when there’s not enough water in the Platte, it wouldn’t transfer any. Bargen said the district has a responsibility to operate profitably.

Friday’s hearing was technically over whether the diversion proposal was properly filed or should be thrown out. Department of Natural Resources Director Jeff Fassett is expected to decide later this year.

Editor's note: We'll take a deeper look at the Platte-Republican diversion proposal in an NET News Signature Story next week.



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