U.S. Water News Online
HOLDREGE Neb. -- The two incoming directors for Central
Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District will help decide
whether the district will sue North Platte Basin groundwater users,
but a decision by the board likely won't come before April.
Board directors say Central's customers are limited in surface
water irrigation for the third straight year while most upstream
users in the North Platte Natural Resources District have no limits.
Legal counsel Mike Klein of Holdrege said lawyers are still
figuring out options, including who to name in a potential lawsuit.
"Our current focus is specifically on the North Platte NRD," Klein
said. "Frankly, I think this board has been very patient in not
taking action long ago."
Klein told new directors Robert Dahlgren of Bertrand and Martin
Mueller of Ogallala that the case would likely end up in Nebraska
Central's customers have a surface water irrigation limit of 6.7
inches per acre in 2007. The Pumpkin Creek watershed has limits of 14
inches per acre.
"I'd have sued a long time ago, if it was me," Director Doyle
Lavene of Bertrand said.
The first meeting of the Platte River Recovery Implementation
Program is scheduled for Feb. 7 in Denver. On the agenda for that
meeting is a discussion of Lake McConaughy, which holds Central's
irrigation water supply.
The governors of Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming recently signed
the Platte River Cooperative Agreement, which is designed to benefit
the threatened and endangered species and provide water users in the
Platte River Basin with coverage under the Endangered Species Act
without giving up their access to federal water, land or funding.
To pay the $317 million cost of the plan, the federal government
would pay $157 million in cash. Colorado plans to pitch in $24
million in cash, and Wyoming $6 million in cash. Nebraska doesn't
have to pay any cash, but could -- because of a substantial increase
in irrigated acres since July 1, 1997 -- end up having to take
thousands of irrigated acres out of production. That would carry a
high price tag.
The remaining $130 million for the plan is not in cash, but is
being contributed through water and land credits. The three states
must together contribute 80,000 acre feet of water at an agreed upon
value of $120 million. Nebraska's share of that water contribution
will come through releases of the water in the already existing
"environmental account" in Lake McConaughy. Wyoming and Nebraska also
will contribute about 3000 acres of land, a $10 million value.
If the program continues after 13 years, a total of 29,000 acres
will be needed to fully accomplish the objectives of the program, but
that acreage goal could change as the science is improved.
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