South Platte River canal project clears second round

A proposal to build a canal that would divert South Platte River water from Colorado to Nebraska under a 1923 interstate compact advanced to the final round of debate March 29 after senators amended it to include conflict-of-interest provisions.

Sen. Mike Hilgers
Sen. Mike Hilgers

The compact entitles Nebraska to 120 cubic feet of water per second during the summer. Nebraska also has a right to 500 cubic feet of water per second during the non-irrigation season if it builds a canal to divert water from the river in Colorado to a reservoir system in Nebraska.

LB1015, introduced by Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, would authorize the state Department of Natural Resources to develop, construct, manage and operate the canal and its associated storage facilities, called the Perkins County Canal Project, under the terms of the compact.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha introduced an amendment on select file that would prohibit the department’s director, employees and their immediate family members from having a direct or indirect financial interest in any entity that is party to a contract or from having a financial interest in the ownership or lease of any property relating to the development, construction, management or operation of the project.

Senators voted 44-0 to adopt the amendment.

A second Cavanaugh amendment, adopted 44-0, would extend the conflict-of-interest provision to members of the Legislature and elected officials in the executive branch of state government.

The provision relating to executive branch officials would apply while those officials are in office and for two years after they leave office.

After adopting the amendments, lawmakers advanced LB1015 to final reading by voice vote.

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