State can decide on Platte-Republican diversion plan
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Oct. 6, 2023, 3 p.m. ·
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The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources got the go-ahead to decide on plans to divert water from the Platte River to the Republican River, under a Nebraska Supreme Court decision issued Friday.
What’s at stake is a proposal to take water from the Platte River, south of Lexington, and send it to the Republican River, near the Kansas border. The goal is to help Nebraska meet its obligations to send enough water down the Republican River to Kansas, as required by an interstate compact.
The plan could help make more water available for farmers along the Republican River. But others who rely on the Platte River disagree with it. They say it could force them to limit their use of water to irrigate crops or generate electricity.
In Friday’s decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court said the Natural Resources Districts and other groups along the Platte don’t have legal standing to object to the proposal. It noted the diversion would be allowed only when there’s more water in the Platte than is needed for existing users. And it said those users’ claims that they would be hurt -- for example, by not being able to use excess flows to recharge the groundwater in their area -- were speculative.
The decision means the Department can now decide on its own whether or not to approve the diversion plan without having the local groups participate in a so-called “contested-case” hearing.