CURTIS, Nebraska -- The board of directors of the Middle Republican Natural Resources District propose a 12-inch hard cap for ground water irrigators in 2013.
The hard cap and penalties for overuse will be set following a public hearing in January, the date of which has not been determined.
Board members struggled during their monthly meeting Tuesday evening in Curtis between setting a 10-inch and a 12-inch hard cap.
Chairman Buck Haag of rural Bartley wanted a 10-inch cap with a 2-inch carryover allowed to the next hard cap year, to provide an incentive to irrigators to be conservative in their water usage.
A motion to that effect failed on a 5-6 vote.
A second motion, to set a 12-inch cap (which would not allow carryover), passed 7-4.
Directors will discuss penalties for overuse at the public hearing.
MRNRD's rules and regulations indicate that the penalty for overuse during a normal year is reduction during the next allocation period by the number of acre-inches of overuse for the first three inches, and by twice the number of inches of overuse of four or more inches. The penalty for overuse of a base allocation or adjusted base allocation during a compact call year is the reduction of twice the number of acre-inches overused in the next allocation year.
The MRNRD's normal allocation is 12 inches per year (60 inches over five years), and irrigators can carry over up to one year's allocation. A hard cap treats all pump irrigators equally in that they cannot use any carryover they have accumulated. An irrigator's accumulated carryover does not go away, but it cannot be used during a hard cap year.
The possibility of a "compact call year" for 2013 is still very likely, meaning that some curtailment of surface and ground water use may be needed for the 2013 crop year.
However, Dan Smith, MRNRD manager, told board members Tuesday evening that because of the MRNRD's proactive efforts to conserve water, it has a positive balance in its ground water "accounts," its share of water supplies in the Republican River Basin. "We don't have to do anything in 2013," Smith said, in regard to restrictions and regulations to curtail ground water use.
Smith wrote in an article to the Gazette in September that the MRNRD's existing credits, permanently and/or temporarily retiring acres and stream flow augmentation programs can minimize possible restrictions and reductions in allocations. He wrote, warning of the possibility of a hard cap, "Irrigators should be prepared, however, for the worst. This hard cap could be as low as 6 inches."
At the public hearing in January, MRNRD directors can change the 12-inch hard cap they discussed Tuesday, but they cannot make it more restrictive.