Letter to the Editor

Irrigation shutoff

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dear Editor, 

Until the NRD's go sustainable on water use in the basin -- no more out then what goes in -- surface water flows will decrease at an accelerated rate and the quick response area will expand to compensate for the overuse.

The Legislature has now allowed the NRDs to require both, (QR quick response), surface and ground water irrigator, who will be shut off in water short years, to pay a tax or fee at the NRD's discretion in any year they receive any amount of irrigation water.

This allows irrigators who added irrigated acres after various dates the Legislature said the NRD could stop additional wells and all others restrictive statutes, to continue to deplete the aquifer, while those who followed the rules get shut off.

Every year that goes by has the aquifer being depleted (on an average) which means a lesser allotment for each acre (on an average) to meet the compact requirement.

The NRD board has now voted that the only way to compensate because of the resulting reduced allotment is initially shutting off the proposed QR and expanding the QR area as needed later. It also requires, as the aquifer is depleted, the irrigator who is getting shut off, to be shut off more in times and add additional QR acres. With the present rules, any potential QR irrigator is funding their own demise.

First and foremost, in the Republican River Basin meeting the compact is the State of Nebraska's responsibility and requires the state to accept and address those responsibilities.

The state needs to address the depletions of the aquifer they have allowed. Nebraska statutes affirm "Every landowner shall be entitled to a reasonable and beneficial use of the ground water underlying his or her land subject to the provisions of Chapter 46, article 6, and the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act and the correlative rights of other landowners when the ground water supply is insufficient to meet the reasonable needs of all users."

The State of Nebraska government is not requiring the NRD to shut off the QR area. Instead, the state gave the NRD's three options, of which only one allowed doing what the statute requires.

The state governing body has been trying to distance themselves from the Republican basin and has now succeeded. Also, the state did not just limit it to the three options that they suggested.

The way the MRNRD voted, when the lawsuit comes from shutting off the QR wells, the NRD will now be the entity being sued because they are not following the state statutes. If the court decision is to justly compensate those irrigators as the Nebraska constitution states, the NRD will be the ones who will have to pay.

All property tax payers, pay the NRD tax.

Nebraska constitution states "CI-21. Private property compensated for. The property of no person shall be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation therefor." "CI-16 Bill of attainder; retroactive laws; contracts; special privileges. No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or making any irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities shall be passed."

"CIII-30 Legislature to pass necessary laws. The Legislature shall pass all laws necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this constitution".

A lot of irrigators over the years have learned how to raise crops with 7 to 8 inches inches of water and still have above-average yield. They also appear to net more income because of reduced expenses.

It takes a combination of precision water application at the proper time, no-till, rotation, good weed control and other practices. It also requires spending money on water conserving equipment, not pumping water to reduce labor cost and not buying additional land.

Think about the ramifications of the farmer who will not be able to irrigate in a water short year. The land in the QR has already lost value and will decrease more as the state will require the NRD to broaden the quick response area. This will reflect in the economy of every town in the river valley areas. I doubt if QR acres property tax will decrease for a period of years. The people who have loaned you money for land, living, and equipment will want paid. If you have cash rent lease, will it be changed? You still have to insure your equipment and buildings. You will most likely have payments for land, on the equipment and stand by electric cost.

The cost of just compensation would be substantial for each acre shut off. The NRD will probably not even want to pay what the cash rent is for the land owner. It is questionable if they even consider just compensation.

Just compensation should be the difference between what the irrigated acre crop revenue, less the savings in inputs such as extra seed, fertilizer, chemical, and other minor adjustments. All the other expenses will still be there.

Just compensation should be in the $600 per acre area or more with present prices, since an acre of irrigated corn would gross around $900 an acre.

Figuring 44,000 acres of QR in the MRNRD at $600 loss per acre compensation is $26,000,000 loss to the ones who will be shut down. Add the additional $300 difference for gross revenue and it could be a $39,000,000 loss to the local area communities of the river valley areas.

Without just compensation a lot of farmers will be put out of business because they will still have the bulk of the cost for an irrigated crop with little income and the loss of value in their property, especially if they own their land. The basin's southern counties and the area around Curtis will see a substantial decrease in business trade and over a period of time, tax revenue.

Since the NRD has chosen to not set an equal reduced allotment for all irrigated acres, the shutting off of the QR without just compensation will need to be challenged in court when a water short year comes and irrigators are harmed.

Remember who voted for shutting off their distant neighbor for their personal benefit when election comes this fall.

Claude Cappel,


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