No clear path
Even though I very seldom agree with Sen. Christensen, I do concede that there is no clear path on the water problems the Legislature wants to meet.
Roger Patterson, the DNR director, and Ann Bleed negotiated the settlement announced on Dec. 16, 2012, based on using the 1998 period thru 2002 for the certified acres and there would be no expansion of irrigated acres and an allotment around 9 inches per acre except in water-short years not to be expanded.
The MRNRD and the LRNRD both expanded irrigated acres. If I remember correctly, Roger didn't know the URNRD was going to allow their noncertified irrigated acres in their base allotment. He could only recommend these things not to happen and has/had no authority over the NRDs.
The NRDs control ground water. The NRDs would never agree to anything near that and that is why we are in the predicaments we are in now.
On Jan. 10, 2003, I received from the Kansas City FSA office the 1998/2003 FSA certified irrigated acres for all counties in the basin. Lincoln County in the MRNRD had to be broken out separately. In 2002 the MRNRD had 295,672.3 FSA certified irrigated acres, including 4,651.7 prevented planting acres.
In 2003 the MRNRD had 299,938.6 FSA certified irrigated acres including 10,603 prevented planting acres as H&RW irrigation district stopped delivering surface water. The prevented planting acres were surface water acres that had lost their surface water. The total accessed acres in 2002, without Lincoln County included in the MRNRD, was 236,960. I only have Lincoln County for 2004 which was 79,950.91 acres for a total of 261,531.91 using the 2002 for all counties except for Lincoln County. Including only the 2004 Lincoln County number it, increased to MRNRD to 281,159 acres.
In 2005 the MRNRD showed 313,605.25 total certified acres. I have the entire document for each one, including signatures or an original CD from FSA.
Instead the MRNRD made a rule 46.4 "No later than Jan. 1, 2004 each owner or operator of a regulated irrigation well shall certify (1) the well registration number for that well, (2) the number and location of all acres irrigated at least once by that well between Jan. 1, 1993 and Dec. 31, 2002, (3) the maximum number of acres irrigated by that well in anyone (1) year within that time period, (4) the number and location of all acres irrigated by that well in 2003."
A lot of acres were added to existing wells and a lot of abandoned acres from 1992 were put back into production in 2003. A lot of surface water acres have since been deprived or totally out of surface water and cannot be transferred as certified acres to a ground water user, but ground water acres can be transferred for money. By 2005 the MRNRD showed 313,605.25 total certified acres.
The MRNRD allows/allowed transfer of certified ground watered irrigated acres, and or its well and/or its water. Most all of these transfers were for money.
Most of the transfers came from acres that were way over certified to begin with, had originally been over developed or to be counted and/or acres to be added to present well and wells drilled, but not pumped from 2003, plus a lot of wells that never had capacity to start with or as the water table dropped, especially after the surface water irrigation stopped where an artificial mound had developed after a hundred years of surface water irrigation ground water and as surface water flows declined wells were drilled to supplement that loss.
As those wells declined in capacity to a nonuse status, those wells and/or that ground water right were transferred to an area that had a better or abundant aquifer. Evidently the MRNRD allowed certified acres and the well, plus probably the unused water from a place not watered as far back as a well last pumped in 1982 to be transferred because the place was sold as irrigated. I had looked at this place as far back as 1998 and just before the owner died. Allowing these transfers dramatically increased the consumptive use of ground water in the MRNRD districts.
What should be done, but can't be done, is revert back to 1998 through 2002 and only allow those acres to have a certification from FSA. No transferring should be allowed except to adjacent tracks owned by the same entity ownership. If the expanded irrigated acres were to be rolled back, the NRDs would say they were within their rights. If the transfer acres were taken away, and they were sold and purchased with money changing hands, including the NRD'S, they would say they were a property right and had a value, because anything of a value is a property and money changed hands.
Then it is said surface water appropriations is not a property right or of value because it can't be sold. Therefore it does not need compensated for, even though some appropriated rights dated back as far as 1890 and if those repayments, operation and maintenance charges for the dams and canals are not paid, that land will be sold to pay to cover those cost.
But if surface water acres receive any water they have to pay the full occupational tax. It is not only taking an appropriated right of surface water but drying up wells in a lot of areas. Now the NRDs and state just take our surface water to meet a compact. It is because the State allow/granted the NRDs, with bogus transfers and allotments way above sustainability and to meet compact requirements, depleted the aquifer for economic gain and now will not give just compensation to those they took the water rights from. What a mess.
I feel all of this poses a dilemma for the state. The Legislature caused the problem because they gave the NRDs, basically total control of groundwater and ability to deplete it in 1982 in order "to come forth as the greatest agriculture state in all the United States of America."
The DNR has/had no authority over ground water, only surface water. According to the studies the bulk of the stream and river flow only comes from abnormal storm runoff and ground water seepage into the streams and rivers where they get their flow, as stated in three USGS Geological Survey studies completed in 1976, 1978 and 1995.
As the aquifer declines the streams and rivers dry up. Since the URNRD and parts of the MRNRD depletion of the aquifer has dried up the streams and rivers, they now have to pump water into the streams, depleting the aquifer more, which will further dry up the streams and rivers.
It is beginning to look like a lawyer's dream, a nightmare for the Legislature, state officials, governor, taxpayers, anyone located in the Republican River Valley that, depend on irrigation for their tax base and the income from the farmers and livestock industries which in turn supported the businesses in the town and/or wanted the lakes for recreation.
You can't take one person's property right and let another person keep theirs, no more than you can have your cake and eat it to.