Colorado pushes back against Ricketts' water claims

22 Sep 2022, 4 p.m. ·

Denis Schilz (back to camera) and Kent Miller of Twin Platte NRD at Western Irrigation diversion dam. Schilz says the water would be about 18 inches higher if Nebraska were getting 120 cfs from Colorado (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Denis Schilz (back to camera) and Kent Miller of Twin Platte NRD at Western Irrigation diversion dam. Schilz says the water would be about 18 inches higher if Nebraska were getting 120 cfs from Colorado (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Colorado officials are pushing back against Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ claim that Colorado is violating an agreement to supply South Platte River water to Nebraska.

Earlier this week in Ogallala, Gov. Ricketts said Colorado is not fulfilling its obligation under an interstate compact to deliver at least 120 cubic feet per second of water to Nebraska. But Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis, said Ricketts’ claim is wrong about Colorado’s obligation.

In an interview Thursday with Nebraska Public Media News, Colorado State Engineer Kevin Rein talked about what the South Platte River Compact, signed by both states in 1923, requires Colorado to do.

“When the flow drops below 120 cubic feet per second at the state line, Colorado is obligated to curtail water rights…but once we have done that, then we are in compliance, and there’s no guarantee that the flow then has to rebound back to 120 cfs or greater,” Rein said.

Rein specified that the compact requires those curtailments be for users whose water rights are later than June 14, 1897, and that they apply to users in Colorado District 64, which stretches from that state’s Morgan-Washington County line to the state border with Nebraska.

Rein said Colorado has been curtailing farmers’ ability to use water from the South Platte for several months.

Ricketts says the lack of water coming across the state line is an argument to build a canal, allowed under the compact, to divert water from Colorado in the non-irrigation season and bring it to Nebraska, where it could be stored in reservoirs and used when needed.