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Friday, May 6, 2016

Water pipeline project must clear new 'hurdle

Monday, January 14, 2013

Terry Martin
McCOOK, Nebraska -- The director of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District called the lawsuit filed by irrigation districts against a water augmentation project designed to help Nebraska comply with multi-state water contracts "a nuisance," during a meeting of the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project Friday in McCook.

Jasper Fanning of Imperial, URNRD director and a board member of the new N-CORPE, told N-CORPE board members and about 15 members of the public that while the litigation has postponed the public sale of bonds to finance the N-CORPE pipeline project, "the project is not dead in the water. It's (the litigation is) a hurdle we need to get over."

N-CORPE purchased the 19,500-acre Lincoln County Farms for $83 million in October 2012 and plans to pipe water previously used for irrigation to the Medicine Creek and on to Kansas to comply with the 1943 Republican River Compact and to the South Platte River to comply with the 1977 Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

Friday afternoon, Dan Estermann of rural Wellfleet, and his neighbor Lynn Meissner, discuss their concerns with the water pipeline proposed to carry water from Lincoln County Farms to the Medicine Creek in the Middle Republican Natural Resources District. The pipeline is part of a water augmentation project coordinated by the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project to help Nebraska comply with the 1943 Republican River Compact in the Republican River Basin (and in the Platte River Basin with the 1977 Platte River Recovery Implementation Program). Estermann told N-CORPE board members, including chairman Terry Martin, he's worried about damage to his wet meadows "if the water doesn't stay in the ditch channel." Meissner got reassurances that N-CORPE would reseed the track of the pipeline across her land "until there's a stand," and that a cover crop will be planted under the pivots on the farm purchased by N-CORPE "until Mother Nature grows a native grass crop."
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
The purchase and management of the land is a joint effort of the Upper, Middle and Lower Republican NRD's and the Twin Platte NRD.

Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District, headquartered at Cambridge, and Bostwick Irrigation District in Nebraska, headquartered at Red Cloud, have filed a lawsuit against Nebraska state officials, the Natural Resources Districts, N-CORPE, the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation arguing that the artificial water augmentation project will deprive streams, rivers and federal lakes of water inflows to which they are entitled, and reduce future stream flows by pumping water from the aquifer. The lawsuit contends that Nebraska cannot convert long-term groundwater to short-term surface water at the expense of its downstream citizens.

Fanning said that N-CORPE legal advisors feel there "isn't much of a case against us." Fanning is estimating that it could take four to six months to get a dismissal of the case.

Because of N-CORPE's inability to borrow large amounts of money due to the lawsuit, N-CORPE board members discussed leasing rather than purchasing equipment needed to start cover crops on the farm's pivot circles.

They discussed drilling a cover crop and the possibility of hiring a custom driller for part of the work, but took no official action. The cover crops won't need a lot of water, Fanning said, just enough to get them established. "We won't want a six-foot growth, just enough to cover the ground. We don't want it to look like a 16,000-acre block of CRP," Fanning said.

The board figured they will need one or two large tractors, a loader, 30-foot drills, one or two pivot track closers, mowers and a scraper.

The board also discussed liability insurance and property coverage and leasing the potato sheds and housing on the farm, but took no action.

The opening of pipeline construction bids was postponed from Jan. 10 to Friday, Jan. 18, at 4 p.m., at the Kearney office of engineers Miller and Associates.

The board went into closed session to discuss an employee contract, the possible trade of land (to create additional augmentation opportunities at Rock Creek and in the Medicine Creek drainage) and the lawsuit.

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