The Twin Platte Natural Resources is on the verge of buying thousands of acres of farmland in southern Lincoln County with the aim of sending the water to the South Platte River. The deal could become final Thursday, Executive Director Kent Miller said.
If plans are realized, water from irrigation wells on up to half of the land would be pumped to the South Platte River to recharge the river.
Other wells would send water south to the Republican River basin, Miller said.
According to an Oct. 11 board decision, the TPNRD will "cooperate with certain other natural resources districts in the Republican River Basin."
The board authorized negotiations on the land purchase to proceed.
The board will meet again at 8 p.m. Thursday in a special session to ratify the deal.
Meetings are public and are held on the second floor of the Great Western Bank building, in the TPNRD offices.
On Oct. 11, the board voted 8-2 to acquire real estate located within the Twin Platte and Middle Republican Natural Resources Districts. Up to $100 million is allocated for the deal.
Board members Bob Peterson and Doug Stack voted no. Eric Hansen, Jim Meismer, Robert L. Petersen, Dennis Schilz, Joe Wahlgren, Jerry Weaver, John Williams, Bob Wiseman voted yes.
The purpose is “river flow enhancement related to the Platte River basin and the Republican River basin,” the board stated.
Part of the $100 million would be used to pay for “operation…of improvements to transport the TPNRD share of water to the South Platte River,” the board said.
The money would be generated from occupation tax assessments on irrigated land within the NRD, Miller said.
Miller said the deal materialized during the last week of September. He said it is “a huge opportunity” for the NRD to add water to the Platte River without regulating every water well in the district.
"There are 300,000 acres in the district," he said. "It makes more sense to affect a piece of land on the fringe of the district rather than to regulate every well."
“In some sense we have been working on this since 2004,” he said. “We met with stakeholders on an integrated management plan in 2009, and they told us to keep the NRD out of (groundwater pumping) regulations.”
“We have to add 7,700 acre-feet of water annually back into the Platte River, to offset water development that has occurred in the basin since 1997,” Miller said.
The offset is required under a statewide agreement that officials worked out over several months, under the Legislature’s bill 962.
The land is thought to belong to Lincoln Farm, owned by a group of investors in Delaware and formerly owned by Don Oppliger. That farm consists of more than 19,000 acres.
When the Delaware investment group bought the land in 2008, the price was $52 million.
Miller would not confirm the location or current ownership of the land. He said it was discussed in closed session, but he said the land is in that general area -- on the border of the watershed between the Republican Valley and the Platte Valley.
Miller said it’s possible that irrigation water from that half of that land would meet the NRD requirement of 7,700 acre-feet in the Platte River.
And he said there are other positives in the deal.
“This would be permanent water,” he said. “The cost of water -- and finding it – is considerable.”