EDITORIAL: Majority of Central District water users group opposes the merger

EDITORIAL: Majority of Central District water users group opposes the merger
July 6th, 2023 | Citizens Opposed to the Merger

HOLDREGE – A recent survey revealed that 93 percent of a water users group served by Central
Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation oppose the proposed merger with Dawson Public Power District.
The survey was mailed in early June to all members of the Central District Water Users, a group of
about 180 landowners and farmers served by CNPPID. Of the 108 surveys returned, 98 were
opposed to the merger and ten supported the merger.

“We do not understand why a merger is necessary to carry out the future of CNPPID,” Central
District Water Users President Dave Dahlgren said “We have not had enough transparency. It
doesn’t appear that Central is broke. It doesn’t appear that our electricity is worth nothing. We don’t
need to give away the company today.”

Two questions were posed as part of the survey. The first question asked water users if they are for
or against the merger. The second question asked if CNPPID should have a public meeting for the
water users explaining the merger before they revote.

Eighty-six percent of respondents (92) were in favor of CNPPID conducting a public meeting before
the revote, while just 14 percent said a meeting wasn’t necessary.

In addition to more than 90 percent of Central District Water Users being opposed to the merger,
four other area boards have passed resolutions opposing the merger, including the Phelps County
Board of Commissioners, the Kearney County Board of Commissioners, the Tri Basin NRD Board of
Directors, and the Central District Water Users Board.

Central District Water Users Board President Dave Dahlgren presented the water users survey
results to the CNPPID Board of Directors at its regular monthly meeting on July 5. Despite a room
overflowing with many opposed to the merger and the presentation of the recent survey results
opposing the merger, the CNPPID board of directors voted to approve new bylaws and proceed with
its plan to revote on the merger on July 17.

Dahlgren said he and other water users are disappointed in the lack of transparency throughout the
merger process.

“Now, with the news of the fertilizer plant, we just have more questions than ever,” Dahlgren said.
“We would like someone to explain to us the link, in any, between the fertilizer plant and the merger.
We think that is a fair question.”

On June 28, economic development officials in Gothenburg announced that a $750 million fertilizer
plant will be built in Gothenburg. As part of the project announcement, fertilizer project officials said
that a carbon-free energy resource will be provided for the project by CNPPID and Dawson PPD
once the companies merge and become the Platte River Public Power and Irrigation District.

Those opposed to the merger said that the fertilizer project can still proceed without a merger
through a contract. A power purchase agreement between CNPPID and Dawson PPD would retain
local control of water resources and still provide the same power generation needed for Dawson
County projects creating a win-win for all organizations involved.

CNPPID is headquartered in Holdrege and for 80 years has brought consistent and timely water to
farmers in Phelps, Gosper and Kearney counties and has created abundant groundwater resources
that benefit the entire area.

Devin Brundage, general manager of CNPPID since January 2019, lives in Gothenburg and is listed
on the Gothenburg Development Company’s website as the organization’s Vice President. The
Gothenburg Development Co. helped recruit the fertilizer plant to Gothenburg.

Many Phelps and Kearney County landowners and farmers have written letters to the editor
opposing the merger in area newspapers. To date, no letters of support have been published.

Former State Sen. Ed Schrock has said the merger is the “greatest water giveaway of the century.”
In a letter to the editor in the June 28 edition of the Holdrege Daily Citizen, Phelps County landowner
Doug Reed compared the merger to a 1,000-acre Phelps County farmer with no debt merging with a
10-acre Dawson County farmer with debt.

“CNPPID has assets in the BILLIONS of dollars, green energy water rights that are invaluable and
the envy of municipalities and states alike. Central has built up $115 million in cash reserves. They
are not in financial trouble,” Reed states in his letter. “Dawson Public Power capital assets are
estimated at $247 million and has an estimated $60 million in debt.”

Before the merger can become final, it has to be approved by the Nebraska Power Review Board. In
April, the Nebraska Power Review Board originally denied the merger based on a technicality. Now
that the districts have revised their bylaws, they plan to revote on the merger on July 17 and
resubmit their merger petition. CNPPID is planning to vote at 9 a.m. with Dawson PPD planning to
vote on its dissolution an hour later at its headquarters near Lexington assuming CNPPID approves
the plan with the required three-fifths majority.

Citizens Opposed to the Merger encourages all water users to attend.


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