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Nebraska Announces $500M Plan to Claim Colorado Water

Map of the Colorado River Basin boundaries. Image: Bureau of Reclamation

By Sherry Simmons

An announcement from Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has many Colorado ranchers deeply concerned. Included in Ricketts' announcement is a 99 year old compact between Nebraska and Colorado.

The compact allows Nebraska to build maintain and operate canals with-in Colorado borders. The compact which was approved in 1923 is an agreement in sharing water between the states. The Compact contains the dates of water to be available from April 1st to October 15th. in this compact Nebraska is entitle to receive 120 cubic feet per second, during this time frame.

More than 40 million people rely on the Colorado river, which is fed by melting snowpack for drinking water

Photo by NPS.Gov

The benefits for Nebraska in this compact includes the right to build, operate and manage canals. Perhaps more disturbing is the rights within this compact that gives Nebraska the authority to buy land from Colorado land owners or invoke eminent domain.

According to a spokesman for Colorado Governor Polis:

“The governor just learned of this situation this morning and we are working to understand it more thoroughly at this time including a legal and operational analysis."

Many wonder how the Governor of Colorado is just NOW learning about this. Also the question arises if this will be headlines during the Colorado Governor candidate primaries. None the less, even as it seems that Governor Polis of Colorado may be out of touch on the ever growing Colorado water concerns, the people of Colorado are not.

Nebraska claims the need to act on this 1923 compact for the future of "feeding the world" . While water concerns for farmers is certainly shared among the two states and across the nation, Nebraska is not the only state in which supplies food.

Additional concerns and questions have arisen from the announcement from Nebraska, which unveiled recommendations for a $200 million water development projects, including creation of a 7-mile-long lake between Lincoln and Omaha a marina and more. This 200 million is in addition to the 500 million allocated for the 1923 compact.

Photo by Save the Cowboy

With this discussion of a seven mile long lake, agricultural water concerns may not be the only motive behind the attempt to invoke the water compact.

Contact info for Colorado Department of Agriculture

Phone Number (303) 869-9000 Website

Kate Greenberg

Commissioner - Colorado Department of Agriculture

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