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Lincoln seeks $200 million, and possible help from MUD, to solve water problem

Lincoln Flooding
Posted at 12:36 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 13:36:52-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The state’s second-largest city has a water problem, and it’s asking for federal funds and possibly help from Omaha’s Metropolitan Utilities District to solve it.

Flooding in 2019 inundated Lincoln’s main water field along the Platte River near Ashland, prompting concerns that the city’s primary source of drinking water could be shut down.

That “near crisis,” Lincoln officials said, prompted a search for a second source of water, in addition to the Platte River, to provide for anticipated growth in the Capital City.

“It jarred our community from a water reliability standpoint,” said Elizabeth Elliott, the city’s director of transportation and utilities.

She was among officials who testified in favor of a bill, introduced by State Sen. Eliott Bostar of Lincoln, to earmark $200 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for communities of Lincoln’s size to find new water sources.

Two options being explored

Those funds, according to Legislative Bill 1081, could be used for construction of new well fields, acquisition of land for water pipelines and construction of pipelines 25 miles in length or longer.

“We are unlikely to see such an infusion of federal funds again,” Bostar said. “It’s important that we use this money where it can do the most good.”

He said that Lincoln’s population is expected to grow from the current 291,677 to 470,000 by 2060 but that work should begin now on such a long-term project.

Elliott said the city is exploring two options: either hooking up to MUD’s Missouri River water plant or having Lincoln build its own pipeline (of perhaps 50 miles in length) to the Missouri River. She estimated it would cost $350 million to $800 million, depending on which option was chosen.

Could help irrigators

The Lincoln water official said obtaining a second source of water other than the Platte could also help farmers. With their current setup, if there was an extreme drought, Elliott said, Lincoln could make a “call” on the Platte River’s water, which would shut down some irrigators upstream. With a backup source of water, that “call” wouldn’t be needed.

No opposition testimony to the bill was presented during a public hearing before the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee.

Bostar said Lincoln could face water restrictions in a decade unless a second source of water is found.

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