CURTIS, Nebraska -- Just because they can, doesn't mean they will.
Directors of the Middle Republican Natural Resources District (MRNRD) Tuesday evening reiterated earlier decisions to treat all irrigators equally, taking no action on state provisions that would allow different treatment of irrigation wells drilled after Jan. 1, 2001, when Nebraska became a defendant in interstate water compact litigation.
In fact, board member Blaine Stinson of Palisade said, "I don't know why we're even looking at this, guys." He continued, "They were legally drilled. Like it or not, they're there."
Stinson pointed out, and other board members and members of the public attending the Tuesday meeting agreed, "We've worked hard to treat everyone equally."
Dan Smith, MRNRD general director agreed, explaining that -- although state legislation allows different treatment of and "different restrictions" (most likely described as reduced allocations) on wells drilled between Jan. 1, 2001, and July 2002 -- "it feels out of sync" with the MRNRD's concerted efforts over the two years it took to write rules that treat everyone equally in regard to water allocations in a compact call year.
The MRNRD has 120 wells drilled during that time frame, irrigating 19,416 acres. Eleven to 12 of those wells are in a rapid response area, Smith said.
Writing a memo to board members prior to the meeting, Smith pointed out that to consider a change (different treatment of wells drilled after January 2011) to this rule less than six weeks after it is implemented "does not seem prudent. How do you maintain the concept of equal treatment when a group of wells is treated differently?"
Board member James Uerling of rural Indianola added, however, that if the MRNRD is forced -- for some reason -- to shut down wells near the Republican, "we should take these (post 2001) wells down with them."
In other action:
* After a closed session, board members agreed to work with neighboring Republican River Basin NRDs to investigate the possibility of a joint project(s) that would augment Republican River stream flows.
* The board unanimously approved variances requested by John Sullivan of Wallace, to move an irrigation well from one section to another closer to REA access; and by the Nebraska Department of Roads, to drill a new industrial/municipal well that will be used to produce the salt brine needed in de-icing and anti-icing operations in the Maywood area, and to waive spacing requirements. The new well will not affect Maywood's community wells, Smith said.
* The board denied a variance request from Ron Rowan of Grant, who requested that he be allowed to irrigate a quarter coming out of the CRP program with a well that was officially decommissioned and abandoned as of February 2010. Rowan purchased the land from family as "dryland" in 2001. Rowan must now certify the acres as irrigated and request a variance to drill a new well.