U.S. Water News Online
CAMBRIDGE, Neb. -- Some trees will be removed or otherwise
controlled along three stretches of the Republican River basin, in
hopes of restoring some of the river's flow someday.
The three natural resources districts along the river will share a
grant to control Russian olive and red cedar trees.
The three-year project is called the Republican River Basin
Riparian Management Study and Demonstration and will be paid for by a
$174,000 grant from money the Legislature set aside.
The grant requires a 20 percent cash and/or in-kind match from the
Roger Stockton, director of the Resource Conservation and
Development office in Cambridge, said Russian olives and red cedars
are big problems on the river bottom, where water is so accessible.
"They're so thick that in places they're impenetrable, even to
deer," he said.
Officials say the trees share some of the blame for depletion of
Republican River flows into Kansas.
A 1943 compact allocated the annual water supply in the Republican
basin. Nebraska gets 49 percent, Kansas gets 40 percent and Colorado
gets 11 percent.
Kansas filed a lawsuit in 1998, arguing that Nebraska breached the
compact by allowing the proliferation and use of thousands of wells
connected to the river and its tributaries along the state's southern
Nebraska argued that groundwater use was not regulated by the
compact, which also was signed by Colorado, because it was signed
before deep-well irrigation was used in the river basin.
The U.S. Supreme Court later approved the settlement of the
Nebraska did not have to pay money damages as a result of the
settlement, but it would be forced to if Kansas does not get its
share of the water.
The new study project includes taking out the Russian olive, red
cedar and excess native species on mile-long stretches of river
bottom in each of the three districts.
"The dams (on the river) have been good at preventing catastrophic
floods," Stockton said, but added that without a spring flush to
scour the basin, trees, underbrush and grasses have grown unhindered
for about 50 years.
Russian olive and red cedar trees will be cut to ground level, and
the stumps will be painted with a herbicide to prevent regrowth and
sprouting, Stockton said.
"We'll work with land owners to stabilize the land as grazing or
wildlife habitat, whatever are their goals," he said, noting that
there are two sides to the "trees on the river" debate:
One side wants to remove them all, which Stockton said would leave
the river unprotected from surface runoff and other ecological
The other side wouldn't remove any plant life because it provides
"We're trying to provide a voice of reason between the two
extremes ... a balanced management plan," Stockton said.
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