This is Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District's response to Dan Smith's letter to the Editor in the Oct. 19th edition of the McCook Gazette.
We would just like to correct a few things that Mr. Smith falsely reported about the Department of Natural Resources' surface water controls as identified in the recently adopted Integrated Management Plans (IMP). I would also recommend that Mr. Smith concentrate on understanding the Groundwater controls.
Surface water has always had controls. When water rights are issued by Nebraska a diversion rate is granted based on the number of acres under permit. In Nebraska the maximum amount of water that can be granted is 448.8 gallons per minute per every 70 acres irrigated. Second, surface water permits in the Republican River Basin have had a moratorium on new permits in place since 1994. In addition the last time acres were added to Reclamation projects was in 1987.
The Department of Natural Resources surface water controls call for all "natural flow" permits and "Storage permits" to be closed, Mr. Smith apparently doesn't realize that every Reclamation project acre also has a "storage use permit" these permits will not be closed and could be irrigated with storage water if the water users of the Irrigation Districts choose to take this water from the Reservoirs. The area lakes could be drawn down to the elevation agreed to in our federal contract. When this occurs all reservoirs will be depleted including Harlan County Reservoir resulting in multiple years of water short year administration under the Compact. By-passing inflow based on a forecast by DNR is not a sound management decision.
Surface water use and Ground water use are far from being identical. In 2009 nearly 228,000 acre-feet of water was depleted from the River from just ground water use alone. Surface water use was only 56,000 acre-feet which includes uses from irrigation and evaporation from all reservoirs in the basin over 15 acre-feet of capacity; this includes all the NRDs flood control reservoirs. And half the evaporation from Harlan County Reservoir is charged to Kansas.
Last week Dr. Fanning and Mr. Smith reported that we have had over 100 meetings of collaborating, however I can report that this is the first mention that the Irrigation District would not be allowed to use the water in Storage. I need to verify with Mr. Smith that he and his directors understanding are the same. If so, was this misinformation present to his Board prior to the voting of the most recent revision to the IMP?
Thanks, on behalf of the Board of Directors for Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District.