Colorado pipeline to deliver water to Nebraska border

Monday, February 4, 2008

A new water project in Colorado shows just how far Colorado has been forced to go to comply with the Republican River Compact lawsuit settlement of 2002.

The plan, which will deliver more water to Nebraska in the North Fork of the Republican River, may offer a lesson for Southwest Nebraska.

While much will depend on the outcome of the Friends of the River Lawsuit in Nebraska, which is awaiting a judge's ruling, the plan adopted by the Republican River Water Conservation District in Northeast Colorado bears examination.

The district took out a $60 million loan, which it will pay back at 2 percent interest over 20 years, using a $14.50 per acre fee on irrigation diversions.

The RRWCD obtained nearly all groundwater rights in a block of land six miles by six miles, and will build a $71 million, 12-mile pipeline to deliver nearly 15,000 acre feet of water per year to the Colorado-Nebraska border.

Construction is expected to begin this fall, with water to be delivered the following July, in time, they hope, to prevent further legal action by Nebraska or Kansas.

They had considered importing water from the South Platte River, but authorities concluded that idea would cost three or four times more to build, would be twice as expensive to operate, and approval would take three or more years to obtain.

Whether or not the Friends of the River lawsuit is successful, Nebraska will have to deliver more water to Kansas, one way or another, whether through the LB701 measures, something like the Colorado project, or something completely different.

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