Why might farmers be looking at irrigation allocation cuts again in the future?
The NRDs are purchasing the 19,500-acre Lincoln Farms LLC (for $83 million, $31 million more than the land sold for four years ago) near North Platte, but it may not deliver water to Kansas.
This plan is to dump water into the Medicine Creek using a four-foot diameter pipeline (costing another $20-$30 million), but it may not allow for enough water.
That water has to travel more than 150 miles before it would reach Kansas and it is far from certain that it will ever get there, especially since it is likely to run in dry years, when creek and river beds and banks are highly absorbent and dry weather fosters evaporation.
If Kansas doesn’t receive the water, they will successfully sue Nebraska again. We know what the Legislature will do. They will pass the buck back to the NRDs in southwestern Nebraska.
If we’re already paying the $10 per acre occupation tax (currently the maximum allowed buy law) on this project, then the Legislature will simply scratch out the $10 in LB701 and replace it with a $20-30 per acre occupation tax.
Or, Kansas might successfully knock our irrigation allocations back to three inches per acre.
This problem is about water and money. And the area between North Platte and the southwest corner of Nebraska is going to come up on the short end of the stick in both categories, using the current plan.
Our farmers will be financing projects that dump unused water right into the streams, and even that might not be enough.
It’s not too late to do something more, as Colorado did in satisfying their obligation to Nebraska. There, they made their “water farm” project dump into the Republican, very close to the Nebraska state line, where the water wouldn’t get lost.
If we have to put water in the river, the wellhead source should be closer to Kansas. We would be more certain our money is well spent.
Let’s not go through this again in the future, and let’s not spend more money than we have to.
- Dan Estermann, Wellfleet