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$3 million in penalties for water meter cheats

Friday, June 25, 2010

IMPERIAL, Nebraska -- The Upper Republican Natural Resources District has imposed tough penalties on irrigators the District found to be in violation of the URNRD's rules and regulations.

The URNRD board took action at its meeting Tuesday.

"A recent investigation, conducted in cooperation with other districts, found that in some instances the flowmeters used to measure water use by the district had been bypassed with underground piping, either currently or at some point in time, so that part of the water pumped would not be measured," said Jasper Fanning, General Manager of the URNRD.

"Violators had creatively and deceptively manufactured bypass piping that had the appearance of common surge tanks used on many irrigation wells," Fanning said.

The owners of the properties responsible for the acts resulting in violations of the district's rules were sanctioned with the permanent loss of the right to irrigate 1,476.4 acres and a temporary loss of the right to irrigate an additional 779.4 acres for 10 years.

Earlier, they were named as Bruce Kramer, Jack Bond, Randall Bond, Kent Crawford and the Harry and Violet Stromberger Trust.

The district also imposed sanctions revoking part of the allocation on 960.7 acres for the violations. The sanctions imposed were severe in accordance with the seriousness and extent of the violations. The loss of irrigated value due to the sanctions was estimated to be in excess of $3 million.

"In these times, with all of the interstate water issues and with the stringent allocations imposed on all irrigators, deliberate acts such as these shall have no tolerance," Fanning said.

The URNRDs internal processes and checks on water use had caught the discrepancies between reported use and actual use, and the NRD had used other methods to estimate water use based on power records.

The primary reasons the violations were not detected sooner were because the URNRD had to excavate to find the underground piping and because of the deceptive design.

Other rules violations were also discovered during the investigation, including the failure to comply with conditions of well permits issued by the district.

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Good start.

-- Posted by dennis on Fri, Jun 25, 2010, at 1:20 PM


So glad too hear that Jasper Fanning is getting something started that has needed done for years.

I think every well and meter needs checked and severe fines and punishment for the violators.

Some farmers have been doing this for years and bragging how they do it and get away with it.

It appears there are several ways of playing with the meters and getting false readings.

"Thanks" Jasper for getting this started and I hope you can continue checking every well.

Great to know some Goverment people are doing their jobs.

-- Posted by Just a reader on Fri, Jun 25, 2010, at 1:56 PM

That should be a bitterly tough lesson for the perpetrors of this outragous crime. Glad to see justice for the farmers that have worked hard to get by with less water over the years.

-- Posted by omnibus on Fri, Jun 25, 2010, at 9:40 PM

Maybe they should put the violators to work!!!!!!

They could have the violators build a underground water system that would take water from the flooded Platte Rivers and divert it to S.W. Nebraska.

Then the water problems would be solved and the violators would become famous.

Maybe they need another chance to prove they aren't crooks.

-- Posted by Just a reader on Sat, Jun 26, 2010, at 6:37 AM

I'm not real impressed with the penalties considering the fact that the H&RW (Hitchcock and Red Willow) irrigation district started rationing water in the 1970's and stoped delivering water to its irrigators in 2001. Those farmers didn't break any laws or steal water, yet over 11,000 acres have seen no water for over 10 years. Try putting a dollar value on that. We now know who to blame for our declining streams and reservoirs.

-- Posted by rw county irrigator on Sat, Jun 26, 2010, at 12:02 PM

Way to go URNRD! This took moxie to do, knowing you will surely face Bond's wrath. Now if we could just get the MRNRD to do some investigating.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Sat, Jun 26, 2010, at 1:58 PM

RW Irrigator: Who are we blaming? The surface water system in the basin is over developed. The system will have to deal with less water in the future. And this is not excusive to gw irrigation, it comes from higher cunsumptive use on DRYLAND crops. No till farming and strip till have allowed farmers to keep more water in the root zone to be used by the crops, the water is not running off the land and it is not deep perking into the aquifer, it is being consumed. Dryland corn yields went from 60 bu. to 120 bu. since farmers started to convert to no till. Increased yields take water. Corn that uses water more effeciently (drought tolarant) will only make yields go up but farmers will still use all the water they can capture on their land. No till farming is not bad, but surface water irrigators and ground water irrigator are going to have less water in the future because of less run off and less aquifer recharge.

-- Posted by omnibus on Sun, Jun 27, 2010, at 6:41 PM

Omnibus; Groundwater pumping reduces baseflow and I have the historical data to prove this. Many of the streams that contribute water to the Republican have dwindled to zero. The Bureau of Reclamation allocated water to the Irrigation districts using stream flow data not some hit and miss runoff event. Surface water projects recharge the aquifer and Nebraska is given a credit for this its called "return flows to the river". If the surface water projects were operating as planned Nebraska would be in compliace with the compact.

Surface water irrigators are dealing with less water Frenchman Cambrige Irr. Dist. was off for 6 years and now has an 8 inch allocation, H&RW has been dry for 11 years, GW irrigators have a 12 or 13 inch allocation and have never been off.

Have you seen the groundwater-level changes map of Nebraska, with a 70 foot decline in the aquifer and a recharge rate of 2 in/year it will take 420 years for the aquifer to fully recover. I'm not blaming dryland farmers, the arid area with a pivot on nearly every quarter and crooks like Jack Bond and Bruce Kramer are to blame.

-- Posted by rw county irrigator on Mon, Jun 28, 2010, at 6:59 AM

Well they lost there wells so you will probly get a full supply of water if you dont im sure you will blame the next guy in line....and for the record i am not just blaming dryland farmers i am blaming everybody..all farmers are consuming more water now than we ever had. less water is making it to the stream and to the aquifer. It sucks to be on the canal but what are we going to do about it, go back to the 40's and 50's way of life??? We are were we are at today because we are more effecient. There are problems in the aquifer levels in the western part of our state but you need to look at a bigger map to see that those declines occur in eastern colorado and northwest kansas too. and if im not mistaken basically ZERO water runs in from CO and KS. maybe you and the "arid farmers" are in the same boat. Its easy to point at one person as the problem but there are larger forces at work here that require ALL cumsumers of water to work together for solutions

-- Posted by omnibus on Mon, Jun 28, 2010, at 7:30 AM

"Thanks", rw county irrigator & omnibus for lots of information and facts.

You guys should become reporters or get on the NRD boards. Seems like you guys know more than they do!!!!!!!

We need some people that are involved and not just BIG farmers!!!!

Lets hope the wet weather cycles help too recharge the rivers & aquifer.

So many things have changed since the dams were built!!!

Its hard to believe what all of the pivot systems have done too the river downstream!!!!

-- Posted by Just a reader on Mon, Jun 28, 2010, at 10:24 AM

These fines are peanuts to the water cheaters/Jack Bond owners of hundreds of pivots in 2 state area this guys is worth hundeds of millions in land value and..3 million is nothing to him or these others. My question is how many wells did they/others get swithched back after getting caught with their pants down and cheaten ways exposed with the first wells exposed and how many others land owners might have been able to switch out illegal piping to meters...I doubt this list is a complete list of all cheats....They should take all cheaters water pumping rights away for 10-30 years years to make up for his cheating all citizen of Nebraska now that would get all to comply .....and jail 5 years manditory time......Amazing a kid can steal a 15 year old car go joyriding and spend 5 years in jail and these water cheats go on down the road with huge crops/and profits raised the last few years while pumping other honest farmers wells dry and a big cause of Kansas multimillion dollar lawsuits against all Nebraska taxpayers paying the legal costs of these cheaters .......

-- Posted by Cornwhisperer on Mon, Jun 28, 2010, at 1:54 PM

Has any one thought that south west nebraska shouldnt be rasing crops???? History shows that the area is best suited for prarie...hence grazing. With organic markets growing there is big money to be made in grass fed beef and bison...free range polutry are all big ticket itmes. I paid $5 for a pound of ground beef at the farmers market last weekend. I try to buy these kinds of products when ever I can. Would like to be able to buy locally grown more often!!! Farmers market is pretty much the only place to do that but they are seasonal. That would give farmers more options. Less drain on the water table. You know ...healthier food...healther enviroment....less use of finite resourses like water.

Just a thought!



-- Posted by kaygee on Mon, Jun 28, 2010, at 6:08 PM

"Has any one thought that south west nebraska shouldnt be rasing[sic] crops???? History shows that the area is best suited for prarie[sic]...hence grazing."

To answer your question in a word, No. A better explanation requires a basic understanding of the forage requirements (both winter and summer) of a bovine or even a buffalo. A typical cow/calf pair requires on average 12 acres of quality pasture for the months April-September. Many of the cattle in SW Nebraska currently overwinter on irrigated corn stalk pasture. If SW Nebraska were forced as you suggest to stop irrigated crop production and convert back to native grass (minus the conversion time) the area would support no more and quite possibly far fewer cattle than it does now.

Karen, you as a consumer are by definition "unsustainable". Paying a premium for organic beef or free range chicken which require more resources per pound of protein makes you even more "unsustainable".

Having the audacity to lament and disparage farmers who ever increasing irrigate efficiently with groundwater tips your hand to how little you actually understand about SW Nebraska. Most people would be hard-pressed to argue that even cows in SW Nebraska aren't "irrigated".

-- Posted by cornhusker on Wed, Jun 30, 2010, at 10:37 PM


In all due respect to your point of view ...I do have a REAL perspective on the grasing and irragators point of view. I regulary visit SW Nebraska and know several land owners in the area of the Medicine Creek that have lost their irrigation rights to their property and the challenges they are facing. Yes I know what it takes to raise a critter for market. Please listen to what I have to say!!!!

South West Nebraska is drought prone and has been for 10,000 years....since the last ice age.

Paririe has been dominant and the only thing that is stable....ask any geologist. This isnt going to change any time soon! It will probably get worse!!! You could become sand dunes soon if history has its way.

You all have a REAL oportunity to get in on the comming wave of comsumerisim.

Irrigating in area of unsustanible water resourses for the all mighty corn god is SOOOOO VERY unrealistic.

I do not disparage the farmers in SW NE that are trying to survive....I am just offering an alternitive!!!! There is a big YUPPY market wating to be supplied. These people will pay big bucks for the organic and free range meat market. I am not a yuppy but the free range organic meat tastes SOOOOO..GOOD!!! And is so much better for you!!! And I am willing to pay extra for it...and so are a lot of other people!!!!!

Educated people that are fed up with the super market tyson product bull$hit CRAP that is Very UNHEALTHY being supplied to us on all levels are very willing to pay extra for healthy, respect for the animals....organicly raised products.

I know far more than you think.

You live in the country....I am surrounded by (ugh) yuppies!:^)!

I hear over and over how much it would cost to deliver the products I am asking for and your arguments all fall short because the eatablishment has programed you to beleive factory farming and abuse of land and animals are the only way to profit and survive.

WELL MY FRIEND TIMES ARE REVERTING TO THE TRUE WAY OF LIFE. You just have to go the extra mile and reach out to the surrounding markets. You wont ever get to be a billionare but you can thrive.

You dont have to beleive me...just ask any of your neighbors that are willing to change with the times!!!

Peace and good will my friend


-- Posted by kaygee on Thu, Jul 1, 2010, at 9:15 PM

wishing me peace and goodwill after lambasting my profession, attacking the products (beef and crops) i produce, calling me all but an ignorant drone programmed by the "establishment"? just a tad bit ironic!

for your information i am a fifth generation farmer AND rancher. i care for my crops, livestock, natural resources and land that has been entrusted to me.

the incredible assumptions and over-generalizations that you make are laughable and it is sad that someone can actually believe such drivel - but alas it is a testament to modern agriculture. We have been almost too successful in that the vast majority of people are 3-4 generations removed from the farm and the resulting information vacuum has been largely filled by environmentalists/animal rights groups to the great misfortune of everyone. younger farmers and ranchers, however, are increasingly stepping up to the plate to debunk such nonsense rather than simply ignoring it.

i will not respond to all of your assertions in detail, but rather in list form:

1) SW Nebraska is drought prone...not a big surprise. Farmers have adapted through generations of hard-learned experience and will continue to adapt while adopting new technologies.

2) Either prairie or sand dunes. There are a wide range of soil types in this region. With some exceptions the best ground is farmed and the roughest remains pasture. Individual farmers will ultimately make the choice to continue to farm or retire irrigation on marginal ground according to micro-economic conditions - not someone who lives elsewhere and "knows" people in the area.

3) "Unsustainable" water. Water is a renewable resource - 3rd grade science book. the economics of crop production requires efficiency - we're not to your definition of "sustainable" yet, but then again neither are you. Will you apply the same "sustainability" standard to any large metropolitan area. Common turf grass is by the acre the third largest crop in the U.S. It requires just as much water and fertilizer (if not more) as corn and what is produced? - Compost at best, landfill filler at worst.

4) "offering an alternative" if your willing to pay for it, then good for you. Next time you buy a pound of organic grass-finished beef think of how it required roughly double the resources to produce and how the producer's net return is little more than conventional cattle - believe me, i've run the numbers, it's my business. Whatever floats your boat though, it is or at least is somewhat a free country still.

5) "educated people" Apparently because we disagree I'm not "educated" - neither in real life or at the university level in economics. I've met a lot of stupid "educated" people in my relatively short time on this rock. If they are so "fed up" and "educated" perhaps they should take the time to educate themselves beyond the propaganda machine that has given us such absurdities as "King Corn" and Food, Inc.".

6) Apparently I'm a "factory farmer" that "abuses" my animals. not even going to dignify that with a response.

7) I don't want to be a "billionaire" and i am living a "true way of life" that obviously you don't understand.

Perhaps I should just change every time the latest fad comes around the corner - investing time and resources on some fleeting consumer whim. Next you'll claim that I'm "afraid of change". That always makes me laugh - I doubt you could understand the changes that have taken place in agriculture in the last two generations, let alone the last 10 years the we have adapted to and flourished because of. Ask any farmer/rancher in his 80's about change - he'll make your head spin!

-- Posted by cornhusker on Fri, Jul 2, 2010, at 12:56 AM

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