Republican River should get trust fund money, too

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The original editorial's contention that a proposal would not apply to rivers other than the Platte is incorrect. Our thanks to a reader who pointed out the error with a posting that follows below. The original editorial, with his response, is posted below:

Republican River Valley residents may feel like the kid in the back of the classroom, waving his hand with the answer, who can't get the teacher to call on him.

The Nebraska Legislature, which was all too happy to place the entire burden of dealing with the Republican River Compact on basin irrigators and property owners, is now being asked to obligate the entire state to pay for similar issues on the Platte.

Some 85 people testified for and against a proposal before the Natural Resources Committee which would siphon off half the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund's budget for the next 10 years to keep enough water in the Platte to comply with the 2006 Platte River Cooperative Agreement.

The money would be used to buy landowners' water rights and pay farmers not to irrigate -- sound familiar? Republican River basin property owners were billed for similar efforts in a law that was overturned after one year of collections; an occupation tax on irrigators for the same purpose has been challenged in court.

But one part of the proposal Republican River interests should support is the new bill's acknowledgement that management of the Platte River is a statewide obligation.

We would argue the same goes for the Republican River Compact signed by the State of Nebraska, not just Republican River basin property owners.

Just as Nebraska has obligations to Colorado and Wyoming under the Platte River Cooperative Agreement, so does the state have obligations to Kansas and Colorado under the Republican River Compact.

Funded by the state lottery, the Environmental Trust was intended "to conserve, enhance and restore the natural environments of Nebraska," not perform such basic purposes as providing vital resources to a major industry -- irrigation water for agriculture.

But if proponents do succeed in using the money for the Platte River, it's only fair that it also be extended to the Republican, Niobrara and other rivers as well.

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  • While there may be legitimate arguments in opposition to LB 229, Senator Fischer's bill to redirect $7 million per year to the Water Resources Cash Fund, this article by the McCook Gazette is incorrect in indicating that only the Platte basin would have access to the redirected funds. This is not true.

    The monies redirected to the Water Resources Cash Fund could be used in any area determined or designated to be fully appropriated or overappropriated, which would include the Republican River basin. In fact, with new language added by LB 229, the entire state would be eligible to obtain these funds through actions directed toward compliance of the Nebraska Ground Water and Management Protection Act (see Section 61-218(3) as revised by LB 229).

    In the Gazette's defense, this misinterpretation has been proliferated via other news sources - but it's critical, especially given the importance and complicated nature of this bill - that this be reported accurately.

    The language in the bill itself includes a description of how funds in the Water Resources Cash Fund can be used:


    Hopefully future articles by this newspaper, and other new sources, will more accurately report on these issues in the future.

    -- Posted by AquaReader on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 1:25 PM
  • Well aqua hope you are correct, because otherwise the eastern establishment of state senators will make sure the people in the Republican River basin will be left out.

    -- Posted by goarmy67 on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 10:53 PM
  • You don't have to trust what I have written - find out for yourself by going to the source. Read the bill, read the Water Code sections that it would change, or contact the Natural Resources Committee staff or your state legislator to learn more.

    There is a good writeup of the bill and its provisions in the latest Unicameral Update produced by the Nebraska legislature:


    Particularly note the following text on Page 3 of that document:

    "The bill also would broaden acceptable uses of the cash fund to include expenditures for studies and grants to facilitate compliance with the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act.

    Fischer said this measure would permit all natural resources districts -- not just those in overappropriated and fully appropriated basins -- to access the Water Resources Cash Fund."

    -- Posted by AquaReader on Wed, Jan 26, 2011, at 2:35 PM
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