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Irrigators want compensation during shutdown years

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CURTIS, Nebraska -- After irrigators sought compensation for having their wells and surface water shut off, the Middle Republican Natural Resources District put off a decision on an agreement between the NRD and state regarding water short years.

About 50 people attended a public hearing on revisions to the joint integrated management plan between the Middle Republican NRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Tuesday in Curtis.

Directors of the Middle Republican NRD and a representative from the Department of Natural Resources heard testimony from 11 people, and written testimony was provided by another four individuals.

Before testimony began, NRD staff provided a summary of the plan's general contents. Testimony was provided by the Department of Natural Resources, the Bureau of Reclamation, Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District and Hitchcock and Red Willow Irrigation District. The remaining testimony came from individuals living in the district.

The proposed revisions to the existing integrated management plan could impose a "shutting off" of some ground water and surface water users in a compact call year or when supplies in the basin are forecasted to be short enough that Kansas may not receive its share of the basin's allocated water supplies.

While provisions exist in the plan that could keep this event from occurring, nearly all of the testifiers were concerned with the lack of compensation for being required to stop irrigating for a year and the equity issue, in that some irrigators are shut off while others continue to use water.

There were a number of concerns over the shutdown of surface water supplies from those who think that ground water and surface water, which have different administrative systems, should somehow be administered the same, with surface water having priority.

Changes in statute, farming practices and flow in the river were acknowledged by some and ignored by others.

Directors, during their board meeting, chose not to make a decision on the IMP revisions in light of the quantity of material and testimony received during the hearing. The IMP revisions will be on next month's agenda.

In general, nearly all the testimony was not in favor of the adoption of the proposed plan. Many of the comments offered were constructive and will benefit the NRD and the Department in their consideration of the proposed changes. Copies of these revisions are available by contacting the NRD in Curtis and are posted on the district's website at www.mrn rd.org


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I believe we need to rethink what constitutes water rights. When these laws were written, water was seen as an infinite resource. Since then, we have seen what a real drought, 2000 to 2006, looks like, it is apparent the old way of thinking, the water below my land is mine all the way to the center of the earth, must be changed.

Deep water, water below the surface, belongs to all of us. I did not see any of the irrigators getting out of their Cadillacs to help pay the ranchers who's livestock wells went dry during the drought, due to excessive irrigation. Why should we continue to bail them out due to their own inefficient business practices.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Thu, Jun 10, 2010, at 5:17 PM


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