Annual Water Tour Visits Republican River Basin in June

Annual Water Tour Visits Republican River Basin in June

May 2, 2008 

An early June water and natural resources tour will visit the lower Republican River basin in Kansas and Nebraska to help answer water use questions in the basin. The annual UNL and Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce water and natural resources tour is June 3-5, beginning and ending on UNL's East Campus.

"With Kansas once again threatening Nebraska with alleged non-compliance issues under the three-state Republican River compact, it will be a very opportune time for the tour to visit the basin," said tour co-organizer Michael Jess, associate director of UNL's Water Center.

"There are always questions to be answered regarding Nebraska's and Kansas' stances on compliance with the compact and with a new round of negotiations currently under way between the states and the possibility of legal action by Kansas against Nebraska, it's a very pertinent time to look at some of these issues," Jess said.

Kansas last initiated compact litigation against Nebraska 10 years ago. That lawsuit abruptly ended in 2002 when the two states negotiated a formal settlement. In 2003 Nebraska officials began efforts aimed at meeting obligations specified in the settlement, but in the 2003-2006 timeframe Nebraska's water consumption exceeded agreed-upon limits. In referring to those deficiencies, Kansas threatened renewed court action against Nebraska last year.

Subsequent discussions among officials from both states have been aimed at avoiding further litigation, yet Kansas recently said it would like to collect more than $70 million in damages from Nebraska for its overuse of Republican River water from 2003-2006.

Colorado is the third member of the three-state compact.

"Additionally, even though it's not germane to the provisions of the compact, we always have people wondering why Kansas wants the water and how they utilize it," Jess said.

The tour will explore answers to those questions, with part of the answer seeming to be increased urbanization and water use in and near Ft. Riley, Kan., that have supported military build-ups for the U.S.'s ongoing military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tour stops and presentations begin near the river's mouth at Junction City, Kan. Other Kansas tour stops include Milford Reservoir, Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District and a site near Keith Sebelius Reservoir where Kansas State University and University of Nebraska researchers are investigating changes in overland runoff caused by terracing and other conservation measures.

The first of two overnights will be in Concordia, Kan., featuring dinner at the recently restored Brown Grand Theatre and a visit to the National Orphan Train Museum.

In Nebraska, the tour visits a recently completed ethanol plant at Cambridge. Efforts to control salt cedar and other invasive species, using special funding provided by the state legislature, will be examined below Harlan County Dam.

On the final day, Nebraska tour participants will join those taking part in a similar tour organized by the Kansas Geological Survey. Following lunch at Superior Estates Winery, legislative and executive branch officials from both states will discuss water issues in the Republican River basin.

Tour price is $390 per person single occupancy or $360 per person double occupancy and includes all food, lodging and motor coach expenses. To register, or for more information, contact Michelle Meyer at the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce at (800) 652-9435. Registration deadline is May 9 and participation is limited to the first 50 registrants.

Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Farm Credit Services of America, Gateway Farm Expo, The Flatwater Group, Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Water Conference Council, Nebraska Association of Resource Districts, Nebraska Public Power District and UNL's Water Center and School of Natural Resources cosponsor the tour.

Steven W. Ress
Communications Coordinator
UNL Water Center