‘Where’s the water coming from?’: As #Colorado eyes asserting #water rights on the #SouthPlatteRiver, #Nebraska looks at securing its own — The North Platte Telegraph #COleg

The South Platte Hotel building that sits at the Two Forks site, where the North and South forks of the South Platte River come together. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From From The North Platte Telegraph (Todd von Kampen):

Here’s the other question: “Where’s the water coming from?”

That may be the greater mystery in Keith and Lincoln counties, whose residents usually see bare trickles in the South Platte — except for four floods since 1995 — and know it’s due to Colorado agriculture and ever-growing Denver and the Front Range.

Despite all that growth, Nebraska and Colorado water officials agree, there’s still South Platte water to talk about.

Counting “return flows” from upstream irrigators, a recent Colorado study contended, Nebraska receives enough South Platte water at the state line northeast of Julesburg to fill Lake Maloney 15 times…

The Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. CT Wednesday [Februay 9, 2022] on Legislative Bill 1015. It would set aside $500 million to finish the Perkins canal, whether or not Nebraska routes it into Perkins County.

Its hearing follows the Colorado Legislature’s introduction of a bill late last week to make South Platte water storage that state’s top priority for water projects.

Senate Bill 22-126 says it’s intended to boost “the beneficial consumptive use of Colorado’s undeveloped waters to which Colorado is entitled under the South Platte River Compact,” as well as to reduce the need for transferring water east across the Rockies…

Jesse Bradley, assistant director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, said his department has barely begun to explore how such a canal gets built in 2022.

But the evidence suggests Nebraska should invoke its compact rights before it’s too late, Bradley said…

Rein and Lauren Ris, deputy director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said their state’s water officials are still seeking to clarify Nebraska’s concerns. Both spoke with The Telegraph before Colorado lawmakers introduced their bill to make South Platte projects the state’s top priority.

Ris said the 282-project list comes from her board’s online database of hoped-for water projects by local “roundtables” in each of Colorado’s nine river basins…

But the vast majority of those, she said, are studies and other projects that won’t sink a well or move dirt for a new water project.

Very few of them — and none between Brush and the Nebraska line — are even close to seeking major funding, Ris added…

The far larger Parker project, touching both Logan and Washington counties, would create two reservoirs as well as a pipeline. Parker lies about 107 miles southwest of Sterling and 89 miles southwest of Akron, the counties’ respective seats.

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