Legislature's Appropriations Chair Questions Perkins Canal Spending

Jan. 21, 2022, 1:52 p.m. ·

River with brown grass and barren trees on the banks. Some traces of snow can be seen on the bank.
The South Platte River looking upstream just south of Ovid, Colorado. (Photo by Jackie Ourada, Nebraska Public Media News)

On Monday, the Nebraska Legislature's Appropriations Committee will hold its first hearing on Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' proposed budget.

State Sen. John Stinner, the chairman of the committee, said the senators will dig into big spending proposals, such as the Perkins County Canal. It's a plan Ricketts unveiled two weeks ago, that is designed to dig a canal to carry water from the South Platte River in Colorado to Nebraska.

Tom Riley, the Director of the Nebraska Department Natural Resources, is overseeing the project.

"Well the major question is, from my side of things, is what the design looks like," Stinner said.

Senator John Stinner
Sen. John Stinner (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

"They're talking about eminent domain. I'm going to have to ask a lot of questions relative to that. They are going to, according to what the plan is, actually create a reservoir in Perkins County. And the timing and the dollars associated with it, and the expectations that they have."

The proposed canal is estimated at $500 million right now — a number Stinner said seems low, considering uncertainties with the project.

"$500 million for that seems like a small sum, if you're going to get involved in it," Stinner said. "My suspicion is it's a small sum."

Ricketts wants to use $400 million of the state cash reserve to fund the canal system and $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act funding.