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Republican River should get trust fund money, too
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.