U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Natural resources districts in the
Republican River Basin plan to sell bonds to finance leases and
purchases of Nebraska water rights.
A new state law allows NRDs in Imperial, Curtis and Alma to
request Ameritas in Lincoln to put together a $9.7 million bond
package. Bonds sales to investors will be announced next month.
Officials want to keep enough water in the Republican to meet
terms of a river compact agreement with Kansas and to avoid
The bonds would be used to acquire rights to river flows that
otherwise would be routed to irrigators in 2008 and beyond.
"I think some of these more creative solutions are going to be
necessary to comply with some of the state's agreements on water,"
said Jasper Fanning, general manager of the Upper Republican NRD at
The bond payoff period is set up over four years, but NRDs hope to
save $1 million in interest and wipe out their debt in one year. The
money would come from a combination of property taxes and a new
occupation tax of up to $10 per acre that owners of irrigated land
The bonds will show up on the property tax bills of all NRD
residents, not just irrigators. The cost will amount to about $47 for
the owner of a $100,000 home.
Fanning said he's hearing few complaints from people outside
"I think most of the folks out here realize that, in our area,
without irrigation, they'd be subject to moving and finding a job
elsewhere," Fanning said. "I can't think of a job that's not related
to or fully supported by agriculture."
Dean Edson, executive director for the Nebraska Association of
Resources Districts, said he backs a plan that encourages more
purchases of surface water to appease Kansas. The state of Nebraska
bought water from irrigation districts for the same purpose in 2006
But Mike Jess, associate director of the Water Center at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said he's skeptical about going into
debt to pay for water on a a regular basis.
"The household I grew up in, you borrowed money to acquire things
on a permanent basis," Jess said.
Jess said a better plan would be similar to one adopted by Farwell
Irrigation District for the Sherman Reservoir in central Nebraska.
Under that type of plan, NRDs would buy dams and other parts of the
Republican's irrigation assets from the federal Bureau of
Gov. Dave Heineman said last week that Nebraska's estimated water
deficit to Kansas for the five-year period of 2003 through 2007 will
be close to 117,000 acre feet.
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