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Bid process approved for pipelines

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Republican River riverbed south of Max, Nebraska, shows signs of the ongoing drought.
(Bill Coe/bccasualphotography.smugmug.com)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- If water is to run in a Republican River augmentation pipeline by June 2013, bids for construction of the pipeline will need to be opened by Jan. 3.

The Nebraska Cooperative Republican-Platte Enhancement Project -- N-CORPE -- board approved the bid-letting process to build about 17 miles of pipelines from recently-purchased farmland in southern Lincoln County to the Republican and Platte rivers at a meeting Dec. 5. The board hired engineers Miller and Associates of Kearney and HDR Inc. of Omaha.

On. Dec. 4, N-CORPE closed on the purchase of the 19,500-acre Lincoln Farm (and Opplinger Farm before that) for $83 million. The board will retire all of the farm's 15,784 certified irrigated acres and send the water used previously for irrigation to the Republican River, to meet guidelines of the 1943 Republican River Compact, and to the Platte River, to meet guidelines of the 1997 Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

Officials expect that less water will be pumped as part of the stream flow enhancement project than what otherwise would have been pumped had the ground remained in irrigated crop production.

The pipeline project is estimated to cost $27-30 million.

Chris Miller of Miller and Associates said bid specs for the south pipeline will be ready for bid letting by Dec. 19.

The south pipeline will run water to the Medicine Creek and ultimately to the Republican River and Harlan County Dam, where Nebraska's compliance with the Compact and river flow into Kansas is measured. The pipeline is expected to be running by June.

N-CORPE officials believe that up to 15,000 acre feet of water can be sent annually to the Republican River.

A second pipeline will run north to the Central Platte Power and Irrigation District canal west of Lake Maloney and then into the South Platte River. The target date for water running in the Platte pipeline is 2014.

The Lincoln Farm consists of 117 center pivot irrigated crop fields. Preliminary engineering plans for the pipeline indicate that 30 new wells will be dug with a common manifold to pump into the two pipelines.

The river augmentation plan is a joint effort of four Natural Resource Districts -- the Twin Platte and Upper, Middle and Lower Republican NRDs -- which are dividing the costs equally.

The plan will be paid for with a $4-6 per acre occupation tax on irrigated acres.

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