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Platte River May Get Deeper In Cooperative Agreement

posted on November 3, 2006


A cooperative agreement between Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming may be instrumental in helping the three states prevent future violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Platte River Cooperative Agreement will protect one of the regions vital natural resources but critics say the accord may cripple a portion of the rural economy.

The plan calls for the states to acquire wildlife habitat along the watershed and increase river flows at critical times during the year. It is estimated the total cost will reach almost $320 million, with $157 million coming from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The rest will be split up between the other states. Colorado and Wyoming plan to contribute a total of $30 million and Nebraska will give $130 million in water and land credits. Federal dollars have yet to receive approval.

Farmers using irrigation, the predominant method of growing crops in western Nebraska, allege the agreement will have a negative ripple effect on rural town main streets. An estimated 72,000 irrigated acres, out of 2 million in the region, are expected to be taken out of production.

Despite the criticism, a study commissioned by the Central Platte National Resources District revealed the cost of not signing could cost rural communities $160 million over time.

Republican Governor's Bill Owens of Colorado and Dave Heineman of Nebraska have already signed the agreement. It remains to be seen whether Governor Dave Freudenthal, a Wyoming Democrat, will follow suit.


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