Governor Ricketts, State Leaders Announce Proposals to Strengthen Water Resources

Office of the Governor

January 10, 2022 – LINCOLN – Governor Pete Ricketts and State leaders introduced proposals today that would strengthen Nebraska’s water resources. 

Governor Ricketts announced that Nebraska intends to protect its entitlements of South Platte River water by constructing a major canal in parts of Colorado and southwest Nebraska. The project, authorized under the South Platte River Compact, will support multiple uses, including irrigation, power production, and municipal water supplies. The Governor highlighted the emerging need to protect Nebraska’s South Platte River water supplies, which are threatened by planned developments in Colorado.  Funding for the project is part of the Governor’s proposed budget, which will go to the Legislature later this week.

Attorney General Doug Peterson joined Governor Ricketts to discuss the important rights Nebraska enjoys under the South Platte River Compact.  Signed in 1923, the Compact divides waters of the South Platte River, ensuring delivery of certain flows to Nebraska at the state line near Julesburg, Colorado.  Construction of the canal and storage system along the Nebraska-Colorado border (colloquially known as the “Perkins County Canal” when the Compact was signed) will preserve Nebraska’s sovereign right to its share of South Platte River water.

Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers proposed a number of water projects developed over the past six months by the Legislature’s Statewide Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability (STAR WARS) Special Committee.  The committee has unanimously recommended them for approval by the Unicameral. The proposal includes plans to enhance Nebraska’s existing water assets and to create new water resources for Nebraskans to enjoy. 

Among other projects, the STAR WARS Committee proposal calls for:

  • Construction of a new marina and related amenities at Lake McConaughy, along with additional road improvements to alleviate congestion and to improve public safety
  • Replacement of a boat access facility along the Niobrara River in Knox County to provide access to the world-class hunting and fishing in the area
  • Construction of an event center and lodge at Niobrara State Park 
  • A major marina expansion at Lewis and Clark Lake
  • Flood control measures along the lower Platte River near Schuyler and in the Wahoo Creek watershed
  • Creation of a 4,000-acre reservoir between Lincoln and Omaha

The proposals presented today are contingent on legislative approval and will receive consideration by Senators during the Unicameral’s current session.


Twilight on the Plains, Platte River, Colorado by Worthington Whittredge, c. 1866-1867, oil on canvas, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

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