Opposing sides weigh in on Platte-Republican diversion proposal

23 de Mayo de 2024 a las 16:00 ·

Testimony is offered at a hearing on the Platte-Republican diversion proposal Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)
Testimony is offered at a hearing on the Platte-Republican diversion proposal Thursday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Ideas of protecting the farm economy clashed with environmental concerns at a public hearing Thursday.

There is a proposal to divert water from the Platte River in central Nebraska near Lexington to the Republican River in the south of part of the state. That would ensure farmers in the Republican Valley have enough to irrigate, while still sending enough water across the state line to satisfy an interstate compact with Kansas. Todd Siel of the Lower Republican Natural Resources District supported the Platte-Republican Diversion project, or PRD.

“The PRD project will only divert excess flows -- that is, streamflow above the requirements needed to fulfill existing water rights and in-stream target flows for endangered species from the Platte River and then put that water to beneficial use in the Republican basin," Siel said. "We will divert water from the Platte River that would otherwise flow out of the state without benefiting anyone in Nebraska."

Gerel Vinduska, who farms along the Platte, opposed the proposal.

“The problem in the Republican Valley, unfortunately, it's sad to say it's just being overused in an unsustainable way,” Vinduska said. "That's why they need the water so bad is because they're using more water down there than what is available. And if you now all of a sudden take this supposedly excess flow and put it down there, it's just human nature that people get used to that amount and use that amount. And then even if there is a need in the Platte Valley, it's going to be very hard to take that away."

Melissa Mosier of Audubon Neb. also opposed the plan, arguing that even Platte River streamflows that aren’t currently spoken for are essential for wildlife.

“Platte River streamflow, even unappropriated portions of that stream flow, does valuable work for birds and other wildlife as well as people in the economy along the Platte River riverscape,” Mosier said. "The central Platte is visited by millions of migratory waterfowl, hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds, and the annual sandhill crane migration every spring. Periodic high stream flows are essential to the maintenance of the braided river habitat that these important bird species depend on."

Retired farmer Nelson Trambly downplayed environmental objections.

“I just wish people would remember the farmer that's feeding this country, instead of all the environmental stuff that they really don't know the result of it, if there is any," Trambly said. "The farmer’s more important than all the snails and frogs and whatever it might be that they're protecting."

Jeff Koch of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks testified against the proposal, saying it risks introducing invasive species of carp into the state’s waterways.

However, Mike Drain of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, whose canal would be tapped to divert the water, said no invasive carp have been found in the system so far, and measures would be taken to protect against them.

The director of Nebraska’s Department of Natural Resources, Tom Riley, said he expects to decide about the project by the end of the year.

Previous coverage:

Proposal would divert Platte River water to Republican River

Platte-Republican diversion proposal makes waves in Nebraska

Audubon objects to Platte-Republican diversion

Plan to divert water from Platte to Republican heard

Supreme Court hears arguments on diversion plan decisionmaking

State Department of Natural Resources can decide on diversion