The concept of creating an augmentation project to help meet state and regional water obligations is not particularly new. The NRDs within the Republican Basin studied the feasibility of augmentation for several years in the 2005-2010 timeframe. And in 2011-2012, the Upper Republican NRD began the Rock Creek Augmentation project in Dundy County, beginning operations in 2013. It is about one-third the size of NCORPE.

The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources in September 2012 informally presented the NRDs with the idea of creating an augmentation project in Lincoln County after learning the large block of property was for sale. The four NRDs involved in NCORPE quickly decided to pursue the property, knowing that the window of time to act could be short because the property was on the open market.

Within about a month, the NRDs had a contract to buy the property. By mid-December 2012, they owned it. The property has an interesting history: The land was first developed for irrigation by Prudential Insurance approximately 40 years ago. Concern over development of the property helped lead to Nebraska’s ban on “corporate farming” which was struck down by the courts several years ago. The land changed hands over the years and the NRDs bought it from a hedge fund based on the East Coast. Nebraska-based banks were very instrumental in helping the land deal come to fruition.

At the same time the NRDs closed on the property, bad news loomed for the NRDs in the Republican Basin. Severe drought in 2012 and 2013 led to projections by the state that the NRDs would have to generate approximately 40,000 acre feet of flow in 2014 or put the state at risk of being out of compliance with the Republican River Compact. A lawsuit by two Nebraska irrigation districts temporarily delayed construction of the project. Once the lawsuit was dismissed, construction progressed quickly, beginning in Fall 2013.
By February 2014, 30 high capacity wells were constructed on the property and more than 20 miles of pipeline installed. A 7-mile-long, main 42” transmission line was built, ending at a large discharge structure were approximately 80,000 gallons per minute of water are released. Operations of the project in 2014 prevented the shutdown of about 370,000 irrigated acres in the Republican Basin in 2014.