CURTIS, Nebraska -- The Middle Republican Natural Resources District board of directors approved changes to the MRNRD's Ground Water Management Rules and Regulations following a public hearing and during their monthly meeting Tuesday, reducing irrigation pumping allocations for 2013 and setting penalties for overuse.
The reduction and the rules changes are in response to the "Compact Call Year" designation declared Jan. 1 by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to ensure Nebraska's compliance with Kansas' demands for Republican River water (divvied up in the Nebraska-Kansas-Colorado "Republican River Compact" written in 1943).
In 2013, MRNRD ground water irrigators will be allowed to use only 18 percent (reduced from 20 percent) allocation available to producers for the 2013 through 2017 allocation period. This reduction will help the district stay within the benchmark 1998-2002 average pumping volume.
MRNRD irrigators pumped 405,360 acre-feet in 2012 (compared to 201,184 acre-feet in 2011 and 186,674 acre-feet in 2010).
MRNRD director Dan Smith has said that while the projected pumping of 250,000 acre-feet is still above the district's annual compliance standard of 247,580 acre-feet (80 percent of the 1998-2002 average), it's a five-year average and total pumping going forward that concerns directors.
With the designation of the Compact Call Year, the adjusted base allocation for 2013 for MRNRD irrigators will be 18 percent of the cumulative allocation of 60 inches as adjusted by (1) an individual producer's reserve brought forward from the 2008-2012 allocation period or (2) a producer's penalty(ies) imposed for overuse from the same five-year time frame.
Examples of allocation amounts:
* 60 inches x 18 percent = 10.8 inches
* 72 inches x 18 percent = 12.96 inches
* 50 inches x 18 percent = 9.0 inches
Overuse of the adjusted base allocation during a CCY shall result in the reduction of twice the number of acre-inches overused for the first three inches, and three times the overuse for inches four and beyond. This penalty will result in a correction to the remaining allocation following the CCY.
Certified irrigated acres participating in temporary retirement programs (such as CRP, CREP, EQIP, AWEP or similar programs) shall not receive an allocation during the term of participation.
The Middle Republican NRD is in better shape that the Upper and Lower Republican NRD's because the Middle Republican did not overuse its 30 percent annual allowable ground water depletion of river water in 2012.
The Upper Republican is allowed 44 percent of allowable ground water depletions and the Lower Republican is allowed 26 percent.
Because the Middle Republican did not overuse its 30 percent depletion, it will not be required this year to help make up for a shortage of water that must be delivered to Kansas.
According to Department of Natural Resources figures dated Dec. 31, 2012, the Upper Republican is responsible for coming up with approximately 10,680 acre-feet of that shortage to satisfy Kansas (based on a positive balance in 2012 of 2,470 acre-feet and a projected balance in 2013 of -13,150 acre-feet).
The Lower Republican needs to come up with approximately 2,910 acre-feet (based on positive balance in 2012 of 2,610 acre-feet and a projected balance in 2013 of -5,520 acre-feet).
The Middle Republican NRD shows a positive balance in 2012 of 8,820 acre-feet and a projected balance in 2013 of -4,290 acre-feet, for a two-year balance of 4,530 acre-feet.
According to Department of Natural Resources figures, the forecast for 2013 indicates that the total Republican River basin may be short of compliance with the Compact by as much as 22,960 acre-feet.
The Middle Republican board voted Tuesday not to help the Lower Republican NRD come up with its shortage unless the Lower's board can demonstrate its ability to repay the "loan" of water.
Smith said that while the Upper Republican has its Rock Creek augmentation project and the Middle has its Riverside Irrigation Company retirement project and permanently retired ground water acres, the Lower Republican has no augmentation project in place, but is relying on being able to use the N-CORPE project (an augmentation project accessing the irrigation water of a recently-purchased Lincoln County farm), which has been delayed.
Smith said the Middle Republican would like to be able to work with the Lower Republican, but MRNRD board president Buck Haag said the Middle may need everything it already has (its positive balance) to address possible future shortages if the drought continues.
Board member Bill Hoyt said the Middle Republican "is not interested in cash" to pay back a "loan" of water.
According to its own Integrated Management Plan, the Lower Republican's option is to shut off irrigation wells.
Smith said that if the Lower Republican can make repayment guarantees, the Middle Republican's board can reconsider the request.
Each NRD has until Jan. 31 to report to the state's Department of Natural Resources the management actions it plans to address its shortage.
Smith said the Middle Republican will report to the state that it needs no action, although it will refer to its reduction in maximum allowable pumping.
According to the Imperial Republican newspaper, the Upper Republican's Rock Creek Project can deliver up to 10,000 acre-feet of water to offset usage by irrigators.
By adding five more wells, as approved by the Upper Republican's board in November 2012, the project will help the district generate up to 15,000, or more, acre-feet to make up for a deficit.
The Middle Republican board tabled a decision and did not reject outright an offer from the Upper Republican's board to participate in a proposed expansion of its Rock Creek project.
According to Smith, the Upper Republican has an opportunity to purchase additional land adjoining its original Rock Creek project and attach it to existing pipelines.