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Flood study grants, NCORPE debt payments in LRNRD budget

Flood study grants, NCORPE debt payments in LRNRD budget


ALMA — The Lower Republican Natural Resources District property tax asking for fiscal year 2020-21 will be $6,447 higher than in FY2020, while the $8 per-irrigated-acre occupation tax is unchanged.

Those tax dollars are part of a $17.6 million proposed budget approved Thursday by the LRNRD board for a public hearing at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 as part of the next regular board meeting in Alma.

The total budget compares to $14.3 million in FY2020.

LRNRD Assistant General Manager Scott Dicke said approximately $2 million of the increase reflects grants being sought to cover studies of potential flood mitigation projects in three watersheds: Thompson Creek at Riverton, Flag Creek at Orleans and Turkey Creek at Edison.

Grant applications have been submitted to the Watershed Flood Prevention Operations program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Dicke said LRNRD officials hope to hear about grant approval by mid to late September.

Also part of the budget is $2 million to pay down bond debt for the Nebraska Cooperative Republican-Platte Enhancement project. Dicke said the $2 million is about equal to the amount raised by the $8 occupation tax in one year.

This is the third year the tax has been set at $8. It can be as high as $10 per irrigated acre and was $9 for a few years.

That money is earmarked for projects that save water or augment river flows to meet LRNRD responsibilities for Republican River Compact compliance.

The property tax asking of $1,355,787 compares to $1,349,340 each of the past two fiscal years.

Renewable energy study

In their written staff report to the board, Dicke and General Manager Todd Siel said the NCORPE board voted July 14 to approve a lease agreement with Chicago-based Invenergy for a study solar and wind resources on NCORPE property in southern Lincoln County.

The study could take several years to determine if those resources are sufficient to develop a renewable energy project.

Dicke told the Hub that if it’s determined there are adequate resources, Invenergy would have to seek construction permits from the Lincoln County Board.

NCORPE is owned and operated by four NRDs — Upper, Middle and Lower Republican and Twin Platte — that have repurposed groundwater use on the property from crop irrigation to streamflow enhancements in both basins.

Water flowing from NCORPE via Medicine Creek has allowed the Republican Basin NRDs to maintain Republican River Compact compliance. There also is a pipeline link to the Platte River to transport water, when needed, to help meet target flows for threatened and endangered species habitats.

Other current property uses include leasing restored grassland acres to neighbors for grazing, and public access to hike-bike trails and for hunting.

Siel has said a renewable energy project could generate millions of energy-related tax dollars during a 25-year period for Lincoln County. The NRDs make in lieu of tax payments based on a grassland valuation.

It also could provide revenues to offset future NCORPE operational costs now covered by occupation taxes paid by irrigators in the three Republican Basin NRDs.

The staff report also says:

- NRCS has extended the LRNRD’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant until 2021, which can help pay costs to retire pivot irrigation system end guns, convert gravity systems to sub-service drip and install high intensity soil moisture sensors. Contact a local NRCS office for details.

- Harlan County Lake was at 97 percent full Monday with 306,567 acre-feet in storage. That is 167,202 a-f less than a year ago. Lake elevation is more than 11 feet lower.

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