A plan proposed by the state to shut down irrigation in water short years is inequitable and targets a select group of irrigators to carry the load, while enabling the continued depletion of water in the rest of the basin.
That's the concern of area businessmen and ag producers, who are drafting a resolution to Gov. Dave Heineman.
The plan to shut off irrigation by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the governor is a way to ensure water will reach Kansas in dry years. It would cut off irrigators closest to the river, designated as quick-response wells and also curtail surface water use.
This would include much of the Middle and Lower Republican NRDs, with the approach affecting 64 percent of total irrigated acres in Red Willow County, said Rex Nelson, director of the McCook Economic Development Corp.
The impact on ag producers and related industries would be significant, he said.
With this plan, irrigation would have been shut off about 56 percent of the time in the past 34 years, with the bulk of the affected acres being in the Middle and Lower natural resources districts, Nelson said. The proposal also does not address fair compensation to these farmers.
Another flaw is that irrigators who will be shut down are more commonly those with senior water rights, he said, compared to those in other parts of the basin who drilled wells later.
The resolution asks that plan not be approved in December, as requested by the DNR and governor, as it does not allow adequate time for the proposal to be discussed.
Dan Smith, Middle NRD general manager, said the plan proposed by the state is not flawed as it does keep Nebraska in compliance during water-short years.
"That by itself is good, but impacts are not desirable," he said.
As far as the proposal being unfair to irrigators in the Middle and Lower NRDs, Smith said that was a tough issue.
"Regardless of what you do, some will see it as unfair," he conceded, although he did agree that more time is needed before the plan is adopted, if even just to address state law regarding hearings. "I'm fairly confident we won't have this in place by December."