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Nebraska governor ramps up push for $500M canal to claim water from Colorado

Pete Ricketts
Posted at 2:42 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 16:42:07-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is ramping up his push for income tax cuts, a new state prison and a $500 million canal to claim water from Colorado.

He's arguing that Nebraska is expected to collect more than enough revenue to pay for it all.

The Republican governor’s remarks came just days after a state board predicted that Nebraska will receive $775 million more than expected.

Ricketts has endorsed a measure that would lower Nebraska’s top individual and corporate income tax rate.

He also has backed a new state prison proposal to replace the Nebraska State Penitentiary and a canal project between Nebraska and Colorado to preserve the state's water supply from the South Platte River.

In January, Ricketts announced the plan to divert water out of Colorado under a 99-year-old compact between the states that allows Nebraska to seize access to Colorado land along the South Platte River and build canals.

Ricketts says Nebraska would invoke its rights under the South Platte River Compact amid concerns that Colorado's plans for the river could reduce water flows into his state by as much as 90%, taking a potentially huge toll on Nebraska's agricultural and power industries and likely affecting water supplies in the state's two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln.

The compact was approved in 1923.

In response, Colorado warned it will “protect and aggressively assert” its water rights. Gov. Jared Polis says he will work with Nebraska but wants to learn more details about what the state has planned.

“Because water is the lifeblood of our state and our critical agriculture industry, we must work together across industries, divides and state boundaries to secure a sustainable water future for all Coloradans,” he said during the State of the State, adding that he was committed to updating the state water plan to make it “more climate resilient.”