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Nebraska governor’s $500 million water feature in Colorado intrigues politicians and pundits in both states

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Nebraska governor’s $500 million water feature in Colorado intrigues politicians and pundits in both states

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ $500 million plan to take more water from the South Platte River by building a canal in northeastern Colorado has left politicians and pundits in both states wrestling with each other. scratch his head.

The 99-year-old South Platte River Pact between the two states outlines plans for such a project, according to Anthony Schutz, associate professor of law at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. But the project was started and scrapped decades ago and whether to revive it may have to be decided in a long and costly court battle.

Even if the canal is built, it’s unclear how much additional water it would bring to Nebraska or what it could be used for, Schutz said.

Additionally, more water is already taken from the South Platte—like many other Colorado waterways—than the river has to give.

“I don’t know if there’s a misunderstanding here,” Schutz said.

If so, he felt that solving this communication problem could make Ricketts’ proposal less attractive to Nebraska.

At a Monday news conference, Ricketts said Colorado’s ongoing development plans and population growth will reduce the amount of water it must allow to flow into Nebraska. These details are outlined in the 99-year-old South Platte River Compact. The governor claimed Colorado’s plans could cut water flows into Nebraska by up to 90%, damaging its agricultural and energy industries as well as water supplies in Lincoln and Omaha.

The solution, Ricketts said, is to seize land in northeast Colorado to build a canal. The move is detailed in the pact, which says Nebraska could buy the land in Colorado or even use eminent domain to acquire it.

During his press conference, Ricketts cited a list of “nearly 300” Colorado “announced” water projects worth about $10 billion.

“If these projects were to go ahead, it would significantly reduce the amount of water entering the state of Nebraska,” Ricketts said.

But State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said the Nebraska governor must be wrong. This list of projects comes from a report generated by the legislation Sonnenberg helped pass in 2016, the senator said. And it describes possible water projects around the state, not actively proposed works.

Nebraska governor’s $500 million water feature in Colorado intrigues politicians and pundits in both states

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