U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- A Panhandle ranch has filed a lawsuit
alleging the state of Nebraska has failed to control groundwater
irrigators to the detriment of area streams.
The lawsuit was filed in Morrill County District Court by the Spear T
Ranch near Bridgeport.
The lawsuit claims the failure of the state to control groundwater
irrigation has caused Pumpkin Creek to be dry most of the year,
preventing the ranch from growing hay to feed its cattle.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages plus $350,000 ``resulting from
the loss of aesthetic value'' of the land.
Spear T Ranch filed an administrative claim for $4 million against
the state last year, which was rejected by the State Claims
The flow in streams and rivers is controlled by the state, which
allocates water for irrigators.
Groundwater irrigators, on the other hand, face little
Many streams in the state rely heavily on groundwater for
According to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Thomas Oliver, the Spear
T Ranch obtained surface water rights to Pumpkin Creek in 1954 and
1956 and has a vested property interest to water from the stream.
The lawsuit alleges that the state Department of Water Resources has
allowed scores of irrigation wells to be drilled in the area, which
has depleted groundwater that feeds the stream.
``The North Platte River system has been over-appropriated for
decades, yet the state continued to issue well permits and continued
to let people pump wells that directly remove water from the Platte
River and its tributaries,'' said Rex Nielson, who owns the
Roger Patterson, director of the Nebraska Department of Water
Resources, said he expected the lawsuit after the Claims Board
rejected the ranch's claim.
Patterson said he hoped surface-versus-ground irrigators would be
addressed by a task force created last year by the Legislature to
advise state officials on water policy.
``One of the things the task force is intended to do is to look at
the ground water-surface water integration to see if there are any
changes we need to make in the law,'' he said.
Gov. Mike Johanns is to name the 49 members of the task force this
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