Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced a $500 million plan to divert water out of Colorado under the 99-year-old South Platte River Compact.
The 1923 agreement sets how much water must be allowed to flow into Nebraska, but Ricketts says Colorado officials have announced plans for projects that could cut the off-season dramatically.
Ricketts says public and private sector leaders are acting as if Colorado has, or should have, complete control over water that starts within its borders – and that worries him.
The compact doesn’t actually guarantee an amount of water in the non-irrigation season, but does say if Nebraska builds a canal, it can divert up to 500 cfs..
Ricketts says an unusual section of the compact gives Nebraska eminent domain in Colorado to condemn land along the South Platte to build canals leading to Nebraska reservoirs, a century-old plan he intends to revive.
Attorney General Doug Peterson says building a canal and reservoir system would strengthen Nebraska’s legal arguments for the water, given how Colorado is handling the issue now.
Water from the canal and reservoir system would support multiple uses including irrigation, power production, and municipal water supplies, but Nebraska’s move to start such a project is likely to trigger litigation between the states.