LINCOLN, Nebraska — This week, Governor Pete Ricketts conducted an unannounced visit to potential routes of the proposed Perkins County Canal. He stated that the current drought circumstances in Nebraska make it even more important that the contentious project be constructed.
Ricketts stated in a news statement that “this visit underlined the necessity for us to protect every drop of South Platte River water we can.” The quote was taken from the visit to the South Platte River. “The Perkins County Canal is necessary in order to accomplish this goal.”
Ricketts made the proposal to resurrect the long-dormant Perkins County Canal project in the spring of this year. The cost of the project is estimated to be around $500 million, and Ricketts stated that it was the only way that Nebraska could claim non-irrigation period flows from the South Platte River that were guaranteed in a river compact with Colorado.
The compact grants the right to the water.
In addition to this, the governor emphasized the importance of Nebraska seizing its proper portion of the river’s flows before Colorado and its rapidly expanding Front Range take it away from them.
The project has the potential to increase the amount of irrigated crops in the southwest region of Nebraska, which is now suffering from drought conditions. There was no flow in the river when we stopped by a certain spot on the South Platte River, which is located east of Ogallala.
Officials in the state of Colorado have expressed their disapproval of the idea, characterizing it as a “canal to nowhere” and a waste of government money.
Some of the state legislators in Nebraska are mystified as to why the canal project, which was shelved a century ago due to its prohibitive expense, is now being given such high priority. In addition, environmental organizations have voiced their concern over the potential for changes to the water flows that provide habitat for fish and wildlife in the Platte River system.
On Thursday, it was disclosed that Ricketts had been across several parts of the South Platte River Basin the previous day (Tuesday).
According to a news statement issued by the governor’s office, the visit provided “a first-hand look at drought conditions and included a windshield survey of possible routes and reservoir locations for the Perkins County Canal.” The visit was not publicized on the governor’s weekly public calendar.
Report is due in the month of December
The Attorney General of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, as well as the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, Senator Mike Hilgers, and the Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Tom Riley, participated in the trip as well.
A spokesman for the governor’s office stated on Friday that the tour wasn’t open to the public or the media, which is why the trip wasn’t included on the public itinerary.
In the month of December, it is anticipated that an impartial study on the costs, benefits, and water supply associated with the project would be finished.
The canal would start in the northeastern corner of Colorado, cross into Nebraska somewhere south of the South Platte, and then continue into either the Perkins or Deuel Counties of Nebraska before connecting back up with the river. Officials have stated that the project would include a number of reservoirs in some capacity.
Riley stated that his agency is “following the course put out by the (Nebraska) Legislature” in order to work toward the completion of a canal and reservoir system that is fully operable over the next several years.
Pursuing various land-based options
Riley explained that this would entail an analysis of the project in addition to a preliminary design and plans for the structure. In the interim, we are working hard to get option agreements for properties that are located along the general canal route.
In the event that a landowner refused to sell their property to Nebraska for the construction of the canal, the Cornhusker State may legally seize the land through the process of eminent domain. In rural areas, the use of eminent domain is frequently met with opposition, which has led to the filing of legal challenges regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, which has since been scrapped.
Riley also mentioned that authorities from Nebraska are continuing to “dialog regularly” with their colleagues from Colorado concerning the project.