CURTIS, Nebraska -- Irrigators in the Middle Republican Natural Resources District will not be required to make up for a shortage of about 9,000 acre feet of Republican River water that must be delivered to Kansas.
Brian Dunnigan, director of Nebraska's Department of Natural Resources, on Tuesday designated 2013 as a "Compact Call Year," which means that the department's forecast procedures indicate potential non-compliance with the 1943 Republican River Compact (which divvies up the river's water among Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas) unless sufficient surface water and ground water controls and/or management actions are implemented.
James Schneider, deputy director of the DNR, said in April 2012 that the designation of a Compact Call Year (CCY) means that any or all of the three Republican River Basin NRD's may have to take management actions to ensure that sufficient Republican River water reaches Kansas.
(See that story, dated April 19, on the Gazette's web page www.mccookgazette.com.)
With severe drought conditions and precipitation shortages continuing across the plains of Nebraska and Kansas, the CCY designation was not unexpected.
Dunnigan said Wednesday that the Upper and Lower Republican NRD's will have to make up the expected shortage of about 9,000 acre feet (the amount of water needed to cover one acre with one foot of water) of water that must be delivered to Kansas.
Dan Smith, director of the Middle Republican NRD, said this morning that MRNRD irrigators did not overuse their 30 percent annual allowable ground water depletion of river water, an important component of the MRNRD's Integrated Management Plan (IMP) to ensure Compact compliance. The Upper Republican NRD is allocated 44 percent of allowable ground water depletions and the Lower Republican NRD is allowed 26 percent.
Smith said, however, that MRNRD irrigators did exceed total pumping restrictions, a second component of the IMP that states that irrigators will achieve annually a 20 percent reduction of the benchmark 1998-2002 pumping volume.
"There is some concern with total pumping going forward, so we're looking at a minor restriction, of 18 percent, in pumping for 2013," Smith said, to stay within compliance of the 1943 Compact.
Smith said that the final CCY forecast letter from the DNR indicates a total projected overuse in 2012 of 22,960 acre feet. DNR guidelines indicate what share of the overuse is assigned to the NRD's and applies a two-year average to what must be made up with management actions.
"Because of the positive balance for the MRNRD in 2012, we end up with a positive number for 2013, and do not have to make up any water this year," Smith said. "That average will carry into 2014, and we may have an issue then."
Dunnigan said that conservation measures will require that water that would ordinarily flow into Republican River Basin reservoirs and tributaries be bypassed so it will stay in the river and flow into Kansas at Guide Rock.
According to DNR officials, the three NRD's must have conservation responses to the Compact Call ready by the end of January.