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Major Issues Continue But on Changed Terms in the Republican River Basin - Nebraska's Water in the Balance


The Republican River, rising in Colorado, passing through southwest Nebraska north of the Kansas border for half the State’s east-west length and then dipping south into Kansas, has provided interstate and intrastate tension for years. Kansas has asked the United States Supreme Court to take up its claim against Nebraska. Kansas alleges Nebraska is overusing the Basin’s resources.

Within Nebraska, three Natural Resources Districts provide governance for the Basin’s groundwater. The NRDs interface with surface water users but do not generally control them.

The Lower Republican NRD, located at the east end of the River’s course through Nebraska, held its first public hearing on a proposed Integrated Management Plan for the Basin on January 13. David Domina, assisted by investigator Richard Scott, ofDomina Law Group pc llo, provides services to the Lower Republican NRD.

“Our client’s general manager, Mike Clements, and its thoughtful Board have devoted weeks of time and scores of meetings to their effort to develop a Management Plan making the River work now and for the long-term future,” Domina said. In a summary of the IMP, Mike Clements, for the NRD, identified the Plan’s major strengths. Clements said his Board and he “are heartened by strong support for our Plan from the US Bureau of Reclamation. We hope to win an expression of support from the Army Corps of Engineers, and we are trying hard to get our fellow NRDs to focus with us on future planning consistent with the River Basin’s resources.”

At the heart of the issue is an age-old question about water and rivers: what is “sustainable” water usage? Domina said “The LRND believes sustainability means resources cannot be exploited now. They must be conserved, used to their maximum efficiency for human and economic purposes, but they must produce, currently, the most crop for the least water while conserving the system for future water users.”

Two LRNRD Board members serve on a recently-appointed Task Force commissioned by the Nebraska Legislature to study the sustainability question.

Clements expressed the “hope of the Board that the State Department of Natural Resources officials, who have generally taken a different approach to the Integrated Management Plan process, will work with us to find common ground.”

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