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Lawmakers Look at Bill to Compensate Surface Water Irrigators

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Farmers in the Republican River Basin could get paid by the state if Nebraska cuts off their access to surface water, under a bill that won first-round approval from lawmakers.

Lawmakers voted 27-0 on Tuesday to advance the bill, even as some warned that major changes are still needed to address problems with the legislation.

The bill by Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial would make up to $10 million available over the next two years to compensate surface-water irrigators. The measure would cap the payments at $300 per acre.

The bill was advanced in the midst of drought fears, and concerns over a 1943 water-sharing agreement with Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. Kansas has claimed that Nebraska violated the compact by over-using water.

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