A pipeline from the mega-water farm in southern Lincoln County could run down the middle of a county road, under a proposal before the Lincoln County Commissioners.
Engineer Dana Daniels asked the commissioners for permission to run the pipeline a distance of about six miles on S. Miller School Road, buried beneath the center of the road.
Daniels said that location would be “the most advantageous for construction.”
Daniels said the pipeline would be 36 inches in diameter and run a total of about 9.5 miles, carrying water from wells on the farm near Lone Star Road. The pipe would empty into a Nebraska Public Power District canal, 3.5 miles west of Lake Maloney.
From there, the water would go into Lake Maloney, through the outlet canal and the Nebraska Public Power hydro-electric generator south of the city, and into the South Platte River from what is commonly called the tail race canal.
In a wide-ranging discussion, the commissioners expressed concerns about Miller School Road, and they also questioned the intent, management and location of the entire pipeline.
In response to questions, Ann Dimmitt of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District said more water must flow into the Platte River under state law, specifically LB 962.
The amount of water will be considerable. Dimmitt said 7,700 acre-feet of “new water” will be required annually in the Platte by 2019.
That amount was set under the Platte River Cooperative Agreement between Wyoming, Nebraska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Dimmitt said the water farm may not supply that many acre-feet of water. She said there are other sources but didn’t specify further.
Daniels said S. Miller School Road would be rebuilt. While the pipe is being installed, a detour route would be available alongside. He said a vent pipe would also be installed to release trapped air and eliminate vacuums in the pipeline, with manholes located outside the road’s right of way.
Commissioner Joe Hewgley said he is concerned about access and the responsibility for repairs on Miller School Road in the future.
Hewgley said he felt like the tail was wagging the dog. He said the information the commissioners are getting is pretty insignificant for the scope of the project.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “This will never be done again in our lives.”
Hewgley said the pipeline route has been designed 3-4 times. He said the purpose of the pipeline is to put water into the river, not the canal. He said the canal might be most convenient place to put the water, but it raises other issues.
In response, Dimmitt said the water might even up what are now varying flows of water at the lake and hydro.
She said discussions are underway between the heads of the agencies that oversee the lake, the hydro and the water farm to work out the details.
Commissioner Duane Deterding expressed concern about the loss of property taxes on the water farm. He said some 17,000 acres of cropland have been taken out of production.
The farm is now owned and operated by four natural resource districts, one of which is the Twin Platte. The other three NRDs are in the Republican River basin -- along the upper, middle and lower sections of the river. The NRDs are government agencies and are not required to pay property taxes. Deterding said the Wallace school district will be especially hard hit by the loss of tax funds.
Dimmitt said the Twin Platte NRD is looking for ways to pay real estate taxes, but has not come up with a plan that meets an attorney’s approval.
“It was never our intention not to (pay property taxes),” Dimmitt said. “We are still concerned. We are trying to find a way.”
Water from the farm started flowing down the Medicine Creek in March, making a 170-mile trip to Kansas.
Deterding asked how long it would take to fill the canal with water from the 36” line. Daniels said he did not bring the discharge calculations.
Kent Miller, the general manager of the Twin Platte NRD, is out of town this week, Dimmitt said.
Dimmitt said the need for water in the Platte is most pressing during the summer, but putting water in the lake might allow for pumping during other months, depending on the terms of an agreement with NPPD.
Deterding asked what would happen if the demands for water on the Republican River and the Platte River hit at the same time, which would be likely during a drought.
Dimmitt said the Republican River has the rights to 75 percent of the water and the South Platte River has the rights to 25 percent. She said the management agreement will be adjusted yearly, but regardless, “they can’t have it all.”
She said water could go down both pipelines at the same time if necessary. The pumps can run 24-7 and their speed can be varied.
The commissioners authorized Deputy County Attorney Joe Wright to draft an agreement for further consideration.