Freudenthal signs Platte River agreement
(Note: Wherever the "Endangered Species Act" rears its property rights / freedom-stealing expired head, resource providing takes a knockout punch. Let time prove that this "agreement" is no different from any other means used to extinguish property rights in America.)
By Bob Moen, Associated Press writer firstname.lastname@example.org
170 Star Lane
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"I've signed the agreement reluctantly," Freudenthal said in a statement. "There are no good choices in this area, but it seems to me that the only hope rests in the Platte River recovery program."
Wyoming was the last of the three states to sign the Platte River Cooperative Agreement. The governors of Nebraska and Colorado had signed earlier.
The plan is designed to help guide Platte River Basin entities in complying with the Endangered Species Act while retaining their access to federal water, land or funding. The goal is to improve the river and protect habitat for native birds and fish.
Some irrigators along the river worry they will lose water for their crops as a result of the plan.
Under the agreement, some land will be set aside for wildlife habitat and the flow of water on the river would be manipulated to ensure adequate habitat.
Freudenthal noted that Wyoming could withdraw from the agreement if the other states and the federal government don't keep their promises.
The plan will cost about $317 million, with $157 million coming from the U.S. Department of Interior and the rest from the three states in cash, land and water. Federal dollars have not yet received final approval.
Colorado plans to pitch in $24 million in cash, and Wyoming $6 million in cash. Nebraska doesn't have to pay any cash.
The remaining $130 million for the plan is being contributed through water and land credits: The three states must together contribute 80,000 acre-feet of water, an estimated $120 million value, and Wyoming and Nebraska will contribute about 26,500 acres of land, a $10 million value.
The river has two branches that both start in the Colorado mountains. One flows through Wyoming and one through Colorado before they merge in Nebraska. With its 15 major dams and reservoirs, the Platte supplies water to about 3.5 million people, irrigates farms, generates electricity through hydropower plants and provides recreation and wildlife habitat.
In central Nebraska, the river is a major stop for migrating whooping cranes and home to the piping plover, least tern and pallid sturgeon -- all considered threatened or endangered species.
The states and the federal government have been negotiating over use of the Platte since the early 1970s.
In a letter to the Interior Department and the governors of Colorado and Nebraska, Freudenthal stated he hopes the program will be a model for the recovery of other species, "with the mandates and dictates from the other side of the Potomac being replaced by meaningful dialogue and true compromise and cooperation with states and local governments."
Aaron Sanderford, spokesman for Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, said Heineman was pleased with the news.
"There's still a lot of possible bumps along the road," Sanderford said. "Long-term, this gave us the best opportunity to make sure agriculture had a seat at the table."
Copyright 2006, Casper Star-Tribune.