ALMA — Owners of the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement project will consider adding wind energy generation to the site’s benefits.

The project developed by four natural resources districts has repurposed groundwater use from irrigating crops on a large Lincoln County farm to streamflow enhancements in both basins.

Water flowing from NCORPE via Medicine Creek has allowed Nebraska and the Upper, Middle and Lower Republican natural resource districts to maintain Republican River Compact compliance in past years.

There also is a pipeline link to the Platte River, which is used to help meet target flows in the Platte that benefit habitat for threatened and endangered species is determined by the Twin Platte NRD.

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Other current uses of the property include leasing restored grassland acres to neighbors for grazing, and public access to hike-bike trails and for hunting.

In his written report for Thursday’s Lower Republican NRD meeting in Alma, General Manager Todd Siel said a wind project on the property could generate millions of energy-related tax dollars over a 25-year period for Lincoln County. The NRDs make in lieu of tax payments based on a grassland valuation.

A wind project also could provide revenue to offset future NCORPE operational costs now covered by occupation taxes paid by irrigators in the three Republican Basin NRDs.

Siel told the Hub, information about possible lease proposals was presented at a Nov. 4 NCORPE Board of Directors meeting in Curtis. He expects another meeting will be scheduled early in December.

Siel said the possibility of adding a wind energy project on the NCORPE property has been discussed for four or five years.

He added that if it’s decided to sign a lease with a renewable energy company, it would be the company’s responsibility to move forward with the permitting process.

In other business related to the LRNRD board meeting, Siel said data collected so far about 2019 irrigation water use makes it clear that the average for the district (all of Furnas, Harlan and Franklin counties, and parts of Webster and Nuckolls counties) will be less than the 4.86 inches per acre in 2018.

He said a final 2019 report may be ready for the Dec. 12 board meeting.

Lower Republican irrigators are under allocations of 45 inches per acre over five years, or an average of 9 inches per acre per year.

LRNRD customers will pay a bit more in 2020 for trees used in windbreaks and other conservation projects. Siel said the 93 cents-per-tree cost is 3 cents more because the NRD will pay 3 cents more to the nurseries.

The charge for a contractor to plant trees will remain the same at $1.05 per tree.

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