NRD looking at pipeline plan from Colorado

Monday, February 18, 2008

If we're going to be buying water to satisfy requirements of the Republican River Compact, we need to get the most bang for our buck.

That isn't happening yet, an official told the Lower Republican Natural Resources District board last week.

LRNRD manager Mike Clements said that to get maximum credit for the extra water we're sending to Kansas, it needs to enter the river just above the Guide Rock diversion dam, and be measured for compact compliance at a gauging station just below the dam.

What difference does that make?

Quite a bit, actually. In fact, only 49 percent of the 19,500 acre feet of surface water purchased last summer by the Republican River NRDs upstream of Harlan County Lake was allowed as credit toward Nebraska's shortfall.

Nebraska kept 136,055 acre feet more than it should have from 2003 to 2006, according to the compact administration.

The answer may lie to the west of us.

That's where Colorado is planning to spend $70 million to convert irrigated land into dryland, and pipe the water saved to the Nebraska border, where it will be counted against the water Colorado should be sending to Nebraska.

That amounted to 44,270 over the 2003-06 period.

No state dollars are involved; the plan is to charge $14.25 per irrigated acre in the Republican River Basin in Colorado. The state would pay about $5,300 per acre for the water rights.

Would it work in Nebraska?

NRD officials aren't sure. But the LRNRD board may invite Colorado officials to a future meeting to explain their plans.

Colorado officials say they plan to operate the pipeline for the next 20-30 years. Ann Bleed of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources said Nebraska's compact compliance efforts should cover the next 50 years.

One thing is for sure; having half of the water purchased count for nothing is not the way to go.

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