Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, center, takes notes during the first meeting of the "Republican River Basin Water Sustainability Task Force," in McCook Wednesday. Behind Heineman are Dale Dueland of rural McCook, left, and Paul and Pat Forch of rural Trenton.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
McCOOK, Nebraska -- A group of Southwest and Central Nebraska residents as diverse as the challenges facing the Republican River Basin met in McCook Wednesday afternoon to determine the future of the river that has pitted state against state, east against west and one NRD against the other.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman created the "Republican River Basin Water Sustainability Task Force" with the passage of LB 1057 by the Legislature in April, and charged it with developing plans by which Nebraska can continue to get to Kansas its share of Republican River water and ensure that there's Republican River water for everyone and all uses in Nebraska.
Because of the water in the Republican, Kansas has sued Nebraska, people in the eastern end of the basin in Nebraska think those in the western end pump too much groundwater and each of four Natural Resources Districts has different ideas about how to regulate and/or shut down irrigation in years when rain isn't plentiful.
Middle Republican NRD
Water law affects agriculture, business, industry, municipalities, landowners and renters, Anderjaska said. "We're all part of the problem. We all have to be part of the solution." Anderjaska thinks far forward: "Short-term is 100 years. Long-term is looking way out."
Gov. Heineman told those on the task force that it is essential that Nebraska continues its compliance with the Republican River Compact compliance lawsuit settlement of 2002. "Tens of millions of dollars are at stake," he said, and that the IMP's (Integrated Management Plans designed to balance water uses and water supplies) being developed by the NRDs are evidence of Nebraska's efforts to comply with the settlement.
Heineman said it is also vital that Nebraska develops sound water use and management strategies in the Republican River basin to benefit future generations.
Nebraska Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege said the task force will define "sustainability" of water resources in the Republican. "Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Nebraska. We want it to stay that way," he said. "Water is the lifeblood for agriculture. We need water 10, 50, 100 years from now."
"Kansas isn't the problem," Cramer said, it's declining and inadequate stream flows. "Put aside personal agendas, and do what's right for the whole basin. The alternative may be no irrigation at all."
Carlson also addressed the sale and transfer of water rights. "As landowners, we don't own the water. We own the right to beneficial use of the water," Carlson said. "It's hard to sell what you don't own."
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial said that water uses and needs of water users along the Republican in Nebraska vary greatly from one end to the other. "From the Colorado line to Guide Rock, the uses of the water in the Republican are different. It's huge," he said.
Christensen said that the task force must meet the challenge of complying with the Compact settlement and recognizing the varying needs of those within the Republican in Nebraska.
"Sustainability is difficult to define," Yaw said. "If it's not done correctly, it'll have an adverse effect on everyone."
The 26-member task force is made up of 22 voting members who represent Republican River NRDs, irrigation districts, Nebraska Game and Parks, the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, school districts, cities, counties, public power districts, and ag-related business.
The non-voting members are state senators Tom Hansen of North Platte, Chris Langemeier of Schuyler and Carlson and Christensen.
Task force members elected Tom Terryberry of Imperial (on the task force as a representative of the Upper Republican NRD) its chairman. Marlin Murdock of Orleans and the Lower Republican NRD will serve as vice chairman.
Scott Olson, Haigler
Water and water sustainability effect the tax valuation of property, Olson said. Less water means lower property values, he said, and that means fewer taxes to support governmental entities.
The task force will meet quarterly for two years. It must present its plans to the governor at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year.
"We need to make a balanced approach to the many uses of water resources," Scott said, considering not only Compact compliance and agriculture, but recreational uses of water as well.
Shad Stamm, Benkelman
Sound science, research and education are going to lead to solutions, Stamm said. Any reduction in tax valuation, he said, will affect the quality of education offered to students. Stamm said he hopes the task force does not become "the big bad bully," that it allows the NRD's to do their jobs and that local control of water issues is retained.
James Dietz, Cambridge
Public power representative
"A water short year shutdown is unacceptable," affecting corn crops and subsequently ethanol production, Dietz said.