One lawsuit dismissed, another filed opposing merger of Central Nebraska irrigation district and Dawson Public Power

By: - February 14, 2023 11:05 am
ditch irrigation

Pipe irrigation using water provided by the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. (Courtesy of Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District)

LINCOLN — A new lawsuit was filed soon after a judge dismissed another one from an irrigators’ group seeking to block the planned merger of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District and Dawson Public Power.

On Monday, Phelps County District Judge Teri Harder dismissed a lawsuit filed by the group, Citizens Opposed to the Merger. The lawsuit alleged that the Central board had violated open meetings laws in voting to move forward with the merger in October.

Harder ruled that the Citizens group, which is composed of farmers and irrigators opposed to the merger, didn’t qualify as a “citizen of this state” who can file such lawsuits.

Soon after the dismissal, the same issues were raised in a new lawsuit from Gary Robison, one of the farmers involved with the Citizens’ group. The new lawsuit seeks to meet the “citizen” requirement.

The legal action comes as the Nebraska Power Review Board, on Wednesday, plans to hear arguments over whether the merger should be approved.

In December, the Citizens group, as well as two couples identified as Phelps County irrigators, filed a formal protest to the merger with the Power Review Board, which must approve such moves.

Some irrigators served by Central maintain that providing water to farmers will become less of a priority if the two districts are merged.

Proponents, meanwhile, have said it would save millions of dollars in electrical costs for residents of the two districts.

The merger would combine Central, which provides irrigation water in the central Platte River area and generates hydropower at Lake McConaughy and other sites, with Dawson, a major retail provider of power.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.