Funds sought for hydroelectric dam study

The state would spend $2 million to conduct a comprehensive study of the feasibility of building a hydroelectric dam on the Platte River under a bill heard March 5 by the Appropriations Committee.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, sponsor of LB122, said the funds would be used to study the possible benefits of a hydroelectric dam and the various recreation and tourism benefits of constructing a lake in the Platte River valley near Interstate 80.

Lautenbaugh said the state needs power to attract high-paying jobs that will keep young people from leaving Nebraska.

“We’ve got some hard choices coming regarding our energy future and our economic future,” he said.

Bing Chen, electrical engineering professor at the University of Nebraska, supported the bill, saying a comprehensive feasibility study would encourage “buy in” from those who would be impacted by building a lake in the Platte River valley.

Creating a major recreational resource in eastern Nebraska would help the state attract business, Chen said, much like has happened in Austin, Texas and an area known as the research triangle in North Carolina.

“If we are serious about economic development in the future,” he said, “eastern Nebraska is going to have to think about a serious water resource.”

No opposition testimony was given and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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