HOLDREGE — A Nebraska Department of Natural Resources hearing last Friday was the next step to review a Platte-Republican Diversion project proposed by the Tri-Basin and Lower Republican natural resources districts.

The hearing was limited to three DNR water permit application issues.

The project’s goal is to help the NRDs meet requirements to offset irrigation impacts to the Republican River as part of Nebraska’s Republican River Compact compliance.

The plan is to divert excess high Platte River flows, when available, through Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s E65 Canal into a pipeline under the Nebraska, Kansas & Colorado Railnet tracks and Highway 23 west of Smithfield. The water then would flow into the east branch of Turkey Creek for transport to the Republican River between Edison and Oxford.

Hearing details were presented at Monday’s CNPPID board meeting in Holdrege by Natural Resources and Compliance Manager Mike Drain.

The first permit issue was whether CNPPID is a “proper applicant” without showing direct benefits to the district.

Drain told the Hub CNPPID already is involved in similar diversions of Platte flows that exceed targets for threatened and endangered species with no direct water benefits to Central.

Tri-Basin NRD and the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program pay CNPPID to divert water at times of high flows into Central’s Phelps Canal and Elwood Reservoir for groundwater recharge that eventually benefits the Platte and Republican rivers.

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The second DNR issue was whether the permit application can move forward without a written agreement.

“We view that of a non-substantive error,” Drain said, because the two NRDs have an interlocal agreement to contract with Central on the Platte-Republican Diversion Project.

DNR officials also noted that the permit application does not mention water storage or storage rights.

Drain said the CNPPID staff identify Elwood Reservoir as a place where water temporarily is staged before its release, which is how it functions for Central’s surface water irrigation system.

The other entities invited to Friday’s hearing already have submitted written objections to the Platte-Republican Diversion proposal — North Platte, Central Platte and Lower Loup NRDs; Nebraska Public Power District; Loup Public Power District; Cozad Ditch Company; and Audubon Nebraska.

Drain said attorneys representing them said the entities agree the issues raised by DNR should result in dismissal of the permit application. “They have objected to this application before the hearing ... and listed their own objections,” he said.

Most objectors have said the water should remain in the Platte River. “We have said we would not take water (for the Platte-Republican project) if there was a Platte use needed instead,” Drain said.

Another issue raised by CNPPID’s counsel is that a time limit for DNR to raise any “deficiency” issues with the permit application had expired before the hearing.

DNR has given the permit applicants and objectors at the hearing until Aug. 30 to submit written briefs on the three issues. A public hearing will not be set until these and any other application-related issues are settled.

Tax issue

On another legal issue, CNPPID counsel Mike Klein said Monday a dispute with Dawson County will be taken to the Nebraska Tax Equalization Review Commission’s July 23 meeting.

Central pays in lieu of taxes, but the Dawson County assessor is trying to tax the district’s real estate within that county. Klein said the Nebraska Supreme Court already has ruled in a past case that such taxes cannot be levied.

Water supply updates

CNPPID civil engineer Tyler Thulin said Lake McConaughy is at 91 percent of capacity.

Inflows are at 1,500 cubic feet per second, but more water is coming into the North Platte River from Wyoming, upstream of the lake. Lake releases averaging 1,640 cfs are expected to increase by approximately 300 cfs during the next few days.

Thulin said there no longer are concerns about high South Platte River flows from a quick melt of an above normal snowpack. Higher flows that were seen for a few days were 115 percent of average, but the melt “didn’t turn into much.”

Irrigation Operations Manager Dave Ford said, “Irrigation is still very, very slow,” but some pivots have been started to apply fertilizer to crops.

The fourth week of a 12-week water delivery schedule started Monday and will continue to early September. Ford said there could be an extension of water service if growing conditions warrant.

In other business, the board approved:

- Two work orders for projects at the Holdrege headquarters: a $10,000 standby generator and concrete work on the parking lots and sidewalks, $56,500.

- The purchase of a video surveillance system with infrared capabilities for night viewing for the Gothenburg control center and all hydropower plants, $68,059.49 from Nebraska-based Kidwell.

- Closure of a $42,077.06 contract with SmithCo Mfg. Inc. of LeMars, Iowa, for a 20-cubic-yard side-dump trailer.

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