McCOOK, Nebraska -- The development of a mega water farm south of North Platte continues at a rapid pace.
Officials said Monday that if water is to run by pipeline and creek into the Republican River by June 2013, bids for construction of the pipeline will need to be opened by Jan. 3.
The Nebraska Cooperative Republican-Platte Enhancement Project -- N-CORPE -- board approved the bid-letting process to build about 17 miles of pipelines from recently-purchased farmland in southern Lincoln County to the Republican and Platte rivers at a meeting Dec. 5.
The board hired engineers Miller and Associates of Kearney and HDR Inc. of Omaha.
Miller and Associates has already worked on preliminary plans for the project.
On. Dec. 4, N-CORPE closed on the purchase of the 19,500-acre Lincoln Farm (and Opplinger Farm before that) for $83 million.
The pipeline is estimated to cost $27-30 million, making the total cost around $110 million.
The board will retire all of the farm's 15,784 certified irrigated acres and send the water used previously for irrigation to the Republican River, to meet guidelines of the 1943 Republican River Compact, and to the Platte River, to meet guidelines of the 1997 Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.
Officials have said that less water will be pumped as part of the stream flow enhancement project than what otherwise would have been pumped had the ground remained in irrigated crop production. On the other hand, they have said that up to 15,000 acre feet of water can be sent annually to the Republican River -- about the same as irrigated crops would consume.
Chris Miller of Miller and Associates said bid specs for the south pipeline will be ready for bid letting in less than 10 days -- by Dec. 19.
The south pipeline will run water to the Medicine Creek and ultimately to the Republican River and Harlan County Dam, where Nebraska's compliance with the Compact and river flow into Kansas is measured.
The pipeline is expected to be running by June.
A second pipeline will run north to the Central Platte Power and Irrigation District canal west of Lake Maloney and then into the South Platte River. The target date water running in the Platte pipeline is 2014.
The Lincoln Farm consists of 117 center pivot irrigated crop fields.
Preliminary engineering plans for the pipeline indicate that 30 new wells will be dug with a common manifold to pump into the two pipelines.
The river augmentation plan is a joint effort of four Natural Resource Districts -- the Twin Platte and Upper, Middle and Lower Republican NRDs -- which are dividing the costs equally.
The plan will ostensibly be paid for with a $4-6 per acre occupation tax on irrigated acres.
Bulletin Editor George Lauby contributed to this report.