Nebraska Governor signs a law to build a canal in Colorado to divert water

Representational imageJeffrey Hamilton

The canal building plan comes nearly 100 years after Colorado, Nebraska and Congress agreed to a water rights agreement that gave Nebraska the authority to pull from the South Platte River during non-irrigation months in Colorado.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced in January that he would seek legislative approval for reviving the canal, at a cost of at least $500 million. Last week, Nebraskan lawmakers passed the bill, LB 1015, with a 42-4 vote and Gov. Pete Ricketts signed it into a law. Gov. Ricketts said in a statement:

LB 1015 helps protect the South Platte River water we depend on for drinking water, agricultural irrigation, and to nourish our natural environment. The Unicameral passed LB 1015 to protect Nebraska’s South Platte River water flows from aggressive developments in Colorado. The state of Colorado is planning nearly $10 billion of water projects in the South Platte River Basin to prevent water from leaving the state. Nebraska has a compact with Colorado that guarantees the state of Nebraska minimum flows of South Platte River water throughout the year.

However, water experts in Colorado have expressed their concerns over the building of a canal in a changed landscape. Kevin Rein, State Engineer for Colorado Division of Water Resources, said:

That is an agreement that was made between the states back 100 years ago when competition for the water was ramping up, and the states decided it was a good idea to get it in writing how they were going to share the water. Colorado is going to be very protective of our water rights, of our allowances under the compact, and our ability to make sure that, if they are going to divert water, they are doing it in strict compliance with the compact.

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