Borrowing money for water is short-term solution at best

Monday, October 1, 2007

Republican River basin property owners will be paying a little extra for a "creative" solution to Nebraska's water dispute with Kansas, but we think Mike Jess has a good point.

Jess, who now works at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln but who was director of the Nebraska Department of Water Resources, is skeptical about borrowing money to buy water on a regular basis.

Using property taxes -- it'll cost you about $47 more a year on your $100,000 house -- plus a fee of up to $10 an acre on irrigated acres, Republican River Natural Resources Districts are buying and leasing water to send to Kansas to try to satisfy that state's right to more water from the river than it's been getting over the past few years.

The NRDs are doing it by issuing bonds and paying them off in a year.

Most Nebraskans would agree with what Jess told The Associated Press:

"The household I grew up in, you borrowed money to acquire things on a permanent basis."

The current plan is a short-term solution at best.

Nebraska's water debt is something that's going to be with us for as far into the future as we can see, and it seems likely Kansas won't be satisfied with the present formula, anyway.

Instead, Jess said, the NRDs should look at buying dams and other irrigation assets from the Federal Bureau or Reclamation -- an idea that the Farwell Irrigation District used for the Sherman Reservoir in central Nebraska.

That would certainly make more sense than borrowing money year after year.

But any transfer of dams and lakes to NRDs would have to include assurances that recreational interests are taken into account as well as those related to irrigation.

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