IMPERIAL, Nebraska -- Bids to construct a pipeline for the Upper Republican NRD's augmentation project near Rock Creek came in well below estimates and the NRD board has awarded a contract to a Kansas City company to do the work.
It is expected that Kansas City-based Garney Companies will begin laying the pipeline in June and be completed this fall. A consulting engineer estimated that the low bid for the work would be $2.5 million to $2.8 million; the low bid from Garney was significantly less, coming in at $2,142,360.
Tight competition regionally and nationally for pipeline work is believed to have produced the relatively low bids from seven contractors who vied for the project.
The augmentation project is meant to be a cost-effective way to help the NRD meet its obligations under the Republican River Compact and associated settlement agreement.
Lacking such a project to increase Republican River flows when needed to maintain compliance, the NRD would have to rely solely on regulations and retirement of irrigated acres.
Generating needed water through retirement alone could cost $30 million-$40 million, or more. Maintaining compliance solely through regulations would require shutting irrigation down on nearly 23,000 acres close to the Republican and its tributaries in some dry years.
Reducing consumptive use of water throughout the NRD continues to be a primary goal of the district.
The augmentation pipeline near Rock Creek will be approximately four miles long, transporting water from five wells on the northern half of the property that will be connected.
The northern wells will be used because they are further from Rock Creek, and thus have less impact on Rock Creek flows than wells that are closer to the creek.
It is expected that the five wells will be able to provide 10,000 acre feet of water in years when it is needed. That amount of water is roughly equal to the largest gap in recent history between allowable and actual depletions to stream flow in the District caused by groundwater pumping, in 2005.
A contractor recently seeded native grass and forbs on approximately 2,400 acres of the 3,260 irrigated acres that were purchased by the NRD early last year.
The remaining acres will be seeded this fall and possibly next year.
Retiring the land from irrigation is necessary to offset the water that will be pumped to augment stream flows when needed. A portion of the water that otherwise would have been used to irrigate crops on the land will instead be piped into Rock Creek to maintain compact compliance.
The grassland restoration associated with the project is being funded with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Funded by proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery, the Trust has awarded more than $178 million to conservation projects in Nebraska since 1994.