Letter to the Editor

Put solutions on the table

Friday, May 19, 2006



Nineteen individuals or organizations testified at the Legislative hearing held in Holdrege regarding water transfers from the Platte into the Republican River Basin. Of this group, eight were strongly opposed to the idea of transfers. Of those opposing, five were organizations and were NPNRD, TPNRD, the City of Lincoln, City of Grand Island, and the Nebraska Game and Parks.  Four had serious concerns; but if their concerns were addressed, they would consider the idea more. Three of those concerned were organizations -- Central Platte NRD, Tri Basin NRD, and Nebraska Cattlemen. Two organizations were officially neutral, those being the DNR and CNPPID. The organizations expressing support for transfers were the LRNRD, URNRD, American Rivers, and WaterClaim. The MRNRD was silent.

It is important to note what the reasons for the opposition were of those that were opposed or had serious concerns. The essence of the reasons given were: One, the Platte River is fully or over-appropriated and, hence, there is no water to share.  Two, it would reduce the amount of water in the Platte. Three, the cost of moving the water would be too great

It is important to note that the water transfers, as proposed by WaterClaim, do not do what the opponents object to. The WaterClaim transfer does not reduce the amount of water in the Platte, nor do we affect the fully or over-appropriated status of the Platte River. Two the primary objections of the opponents are based on something the proposal does not do.

Many people don't understand how it is possible to move water from the Platte to the Republican without making the situation on the Platte worse. 

Here is how it works. A farmer on the Platte River moves water from a canal or pumps it from the ground and puts it on his field. Let's say he put 18 inches on the field. The plant takes into its root system 12 inches and moves it to the leaves where it evaporates into the air and blows to Iowa. The six inches the plant didn't use either seeps back into the ground or runs off to the river. The 12 inches are called Consumptive Use. Those 12 inches are being removed from the river basin by farmers in the Platte River Basin today. 

WaterClaim proposes buying these 18 inches from the farmer or CNPPID and moving 12 of them to the Republican River Basin where they can resolve the issue with Kansas. The other six inches that are purchased stay in the Platte, even though they were paid for. This assures that we have no effect on the river basin that isn't already happening. 

Many of the opponents to the idea of transfers either don't understand this or refuse to accept this is how the transfer would work. For example, several of the opponents to the idea acknowledge that, even if we don't remove any water from the Platte that isn't already blowing to Iowa, they are still opposed because we might remove more.

Many of the opponents are "conservationists" or "environmentalists" who are opposed to current water use policy for a variety of reasons and advocate a conversion to crops other than corn. They oppose transfers because they solve the legal problems without forcing the usage reductions that they want.

One thing for people in the Republican River Basin to consider - what happens to the communities in this region if we do not increase the water supply? It simply means that somewhere around the year 2010, a judge will probably take control of water policy away from the DNR and the NRDs and decide our fate. The judge has the option of turning off all of the wells to force compliance. Will that happen? Who knows. But, in early May, a judge ordered the shutdown of 400 Colorado wells using the same basis that will be used to shut down wells here. 

WaterClaim welcomes any alternative idea to transfer that will solve the problem. We have done more than just criticize ideas. We have put a solution on the table that will work. We challenge the opponents of transfers to do the same. Put a solution on the table for consideration.

You can find a copy of the Spring Creek Water Transfer Proposal at www.waterclaim.org

-- Steve Smith is Director WaterClaim, which has headquarters in Imperial. More information is available at http://www.waterclaim.org

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