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Nebraska law will advance proposed Colorado canal project

Urban stretch of South Platte River gets revitalization plan
Posted at 2:17 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 16:23:56-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a law Monday that will allow the state to move forward with plans to build a canal in Colorado to divert water out of the South Platte River because of fears about growing water consumption in Colorado.

Ricketts proposed the canal project in January to help protect Nebraska's water rights, although Colorado officials have questioned the need for it. Ricketts claimed access to land in Colorado under the 99-year-old South Platte River Compact between the states. This came amid concerns that Colorado's plans for the river could reduce water flows into his state by as much as 90%, taking a potentially huge toll on Nebraska's agricultural and power industries and likely affecting water supplies in the state's two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln.

Just after the announcement in January, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis warned the state will “protect and aggressively assert” its water rights. He added that Colorado will work with Nebraska but he wanted to learn more details about what the state had planned.

On April 13, Nebraska lawmakers gave final approval to the bill. It was then sent to Ricketts desk, and he signed it into law Monday.

The law will allow Nebraska to begin work on the roughly $500 million canal, but the measure includes only $53.5 million to start on the project. This will force the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to seek more money next year to continue the project.

Officials estimate that it will take eight to 10 years to complete the project.