TRENTON, Nebraska -- Citing their desire to treat all irrigators equally, board members of the Middle Republican Natural Resources District Tuesday afternoon struck language from their proposed rules and regulations that would have shut down wells in rapid response areas during years of predicted water shortages.
Steve Cappel's motion to eliminate Rule 3.1 of the Appendix (page 30 in the Ground Water Management Area rules and regulations) was seconded by Bill Hoyt, and it passed 8-3 over the objections of Brad Randel, Rick Spencer and Kevin Fornoff.
Randel told fellow board members that he, too, wants to treat everyone the same in dry years, but he said, "We've got management actions in place to avoid shutting down rapid response wells." (Rapid response wells are those located in areas designated by the MRNRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources as subject to additional controls in compact call (water short) year).
Randel recommended leaving the language as it is written to demonstrate to Kansas Nebraska's sincerity in complying with the (1943 Kansas-Nebraska-Colorado) Republican River Compact and a 2003 settlement agreement, and in responding to a "Compact Calls Year," a year in which the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources' forecasts indicate the potential for non-compliance with the compact if sufficient surface and ground water controls and/or management actions are not taken.
Randel said he prefers to leave the language in the rules/regs. "I won't ever vote to shut down rapid response wells anyway," he said.
Fornoff added, "We're using only 60 percent of our (water) allocation now."
MRNRD general manager Dan Smith said the designation of a compact call year "will still require action as needed," but the consensus of the board members was to adjust all allocations for all areas as needed.
Voting to take Rule 3.1 out of the rules/regs were John Palic, Blaine Stinson, James Uerling, Joe Anderjaska, Buck Haag, Rick McConville, Cappel and Hoyt.
Anderjaska, Haag, McConville, Spencer and Uerling have all filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State's office for re-election to the MRNRD board. Non-incumbent Clint Sheets of Wallace has also filed.
Non-incumbents have until March 1 to file with the secretary of state's office. All positions on the MRNRD board are elected at-large.
To alleviate confusion over changes in the rule/regs regarding the determination of irrigation water allocations, board members voted to eliminate the proposed four-year rolling allocation system that would have become effective Jan. 1, 2013 (5-3.7 through 5-3.12 on pages 26 and 27 of the rules/regs).
The board voted unanimously to retain the current five-year allocation system with a 12-inch/per year base allocation (the same rule numbers, on pages 25 and 26).
In other discussion of the rules/regs, board members:
* Removed the words "prior to and" from Rule 4-7.3.2 (page 17) regarding recertification of acres because of a change in ownership. The language as it stood until Tuesday was: " ... the acres must be capable of being supplied with ground water through irrigation works ... under the control of the person making the recertification for a period of three years prior to and after the recertification." One board member said, "No one will buy land they can't use for three years" before being able to recertify its acres.
* The board also discussed the impact of Rule 126.96.36.199 regarding the history of use of certified acres whose owner is requesting a permanent transfer. The proposed change in the existing rules/regs states that the acres must have a history of use equal to or greater than 50 percent of the county average for the previous five years. Smith said, "While that rule can stand to determine eligibility, Rule 5-2.4.8 that would have limited future allocations for those acres to the current history was determined to be too restrictive and will be taken out of the draft rules."
Randel called the rule "too restrictive." Fornoff said the board is "making too many rules." The board consensus was not to penalize someone who is saving water and has the capacity to irrigate.
Board members will consider adoption of the rules and regulations and their amendments at their next monthly meeting, Friday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m., in the Community Center in Curtis.
Smith updated board members on legislative action, telling them that LB 1125 was introduced to the Nebraska Legislature's Natural Resource Committee by District 44 Sen. Mark Christensen on Jan. 19. The bill amends the 2010 law that levies occupation taxes on irrigated land by allowing the record owner of land to certify to the NRD on or before March 1 of each year "the nonirrigation status" of whatever acres he/she intends not to irrigate. For any occupation tax levied on or after March 1, the record owner may certify the nonirrigation status of the acres subject to the tax by September 1, and the district shall refund amounts collected based upon such acres by December 31.
Smith updated board members on action regarding LB 526 relating to water transfers, introduced by District 38 Sen. Tom Carlson; and LB 653 relating to interbasin water transfers, also introduced by Christensen.
Following testimony during a public hearing and action during the regular meeting, the board approved:
* A variance in recertification of acres requested by Dan Loomis, and a variance requested by Robert Wilcox to allow him to mount a flow meter other than permanently on a well because of vibration damage.
* The board voted unanimously to allow Owen Wilson of rural Farnam to quit using a well drilled in 1961, and to recertify other acres, eliminating flood irrigation. The well is an observation well with 30 years of history, Smith said, and Wilson agreed to allow the NRD to continue to use it as a monitor well.