Irrigation well in Lincoln County
A public hearing will be held Friday in Wallace to discuss pipeline routes from an $83 million "mega-water farm" in southern Lincoln County. Organizers said the hearing will gather input on aspects of the project, including possible pipeline routes. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. Central Time Friday at the American Legion Hall, 217 South Commercial Ave. in Wallace.
An $83 million purchase contract for the land and associated improvements has been signed and the closing date is set Dec. 3.
The land is the former Lincoln Farm, consisting of nearly 117 pivot irrigated quarter sections. The land will be converted to grassland, the existing wells will be abandoned and bigger wells dug to supply water to the Republican River and the Platte River, to meet agreements with surrounding states and the federal government.
Those agreements help ensure that water continues to flow in both rivers and states downstream receive a fair share of it.
Four natural resource districts (conservation agencies) joined together in October to buy the farm in one of the biggest land deals in Nebraska history. The deal was not announced until the purchase agreement was signed, catching people, including many public officials, by surprise.
Wallace officials have voiced concerns about loss of jobs and property tax income for the Wallace school.
The four districts in turn created a new agency called the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement Project (N-CORPE) to oversee the water farm.
A brief presentation of the project will be provided Friday at the public hearing, followed by public testimony, according to an announcement from the NRDs.
The project will be funded by irrigators in the area, through a $5-10 an acre annual tax, organizers say.
The farm ncludes more than 19,000 acres, approximately 16,000 of them irrigated, in Lincoln County.
Retiring the acres will allow water that otherwise be used to irrigate crops on the land to instead be piped into the Platte River and, when needed, a tributary of the Republican River, thought go be the Medicine Creek.
Doing so will aid Nebraska’s efforts to maintain compliance with the Republican River Compact and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.
Including land, the development of the project and operations, producing water for both river basins could cost between $300 and $500 an acre foot, the announcement said. By comparison, leasing surface water from irrigation districts in the Republican Basin can cost between $2,000-$3,000 an acre foot.
Permanently retiring irrigated acres close to streams without piping the water and instead allowing groundwater to seep into rivers and tributaries to increase flows can cost approximately $3,000 an acre foot, NRD officials estimate.
N-CORPE consists of the Lower Republican NRD, Middle Republican NRD, Upper Republican NRD and Twin Platte NRD.