NRD balks at paying $131K N-CORPE bill
McCOOK, Neb. -- The Middle Republican Natural Resources District board of directors voted 11-2 Tuesday afternoon not to pay a $131,500 bill submitted to it by N-CORPE.
Jack Russell, director of the MRNRD, told his board members during their monthly meeting Tuesday in McCook that he has "no justification" to bring the bill for operating expenses to his board. Board member Rick McConville of Indianola said he wants more information before paying the bill.
Another board member pointed out that N-CORPE has a cash balance of $730,000, questioning the need for similar bills sent to each of N-CORPE's project partners, the Upper Republican, the Lower Republican and the Twin Platte NRD's. Russell said the other three NRD's each paid the $131,500 bill.
Benjie Loomis of Maywood, who is a member of the N-CORPE board, and Kevin Fornoff of Hayes Center voted against a motion not to pay the bill without more information.
At the end of their regular meeting agenda, the MRNRD board went into a close session to discuss N-CORPE legal issues and personnel.
N-CORPE, the "Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement" project, is an interlocal agency formed in the fall of 2012 by the four Natural Resources Districts to increase stream flows in the Republican and Platte Rivers. N-CORPE purchased 19,400 acres in Lincoln County, Nebraska, 15,800 of those irrigated with 115 groundwater wells. By February 2014, 30 high capacity wells were constructed on the property and more than 20 miles of pipeline installed. About 14,326 of those acres have been retired from crop irrigation so that the water can be transported via pipelines and tributaries to the Republican River to ensure Nebraska's compliance with the 1942 Republic River Compact with Kansas and Colorado, and to the South Platte for compliance with the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (1997).
The purchase of the "Lincoln County Farm" cost $83 million, and bonds to finance the purchase and construction costs (for a total of $120 million) are paid cooperatively by the four NRD's. The land purchase, construction of pipelines and maintenance/operation are funded with occupation taxes on irrigators.
Loomis said the N-CORPE board is considering re-financing the bonds with the possibility of saving $7-11 million in interest.
At the Lower Republican NRD board meeting on Dec. 17, N-CORPE manager Kyle Shepherd told LRNRD board members that the N-CORPE board is considering a study on wind farm development at the Lincoln County site to generate extra operating funds and Lincoln County tax revenue.