Inconvenience the many, or devastate the few?
On January 8, 2014, I had the opportunity to hear Gov. Heineman address the Water Round Table in Lincoln.
The governor mentioned several issues including taxes and water. He also gave a brief history of some of the accomplishments of his tenure. When the governor addressed any potential funding to address problems he emphasized the need for people to get their message out.
First, I can't believe anyone in the media has not asked the simple question, "Why is the state taking the potential water supply from approximately 100,000 surface-irrigated acres in the Republican River Basin?"
The common answer is Compact compliance. But, why is this action necessary for Compact compliance? The basic reason is that Nebraska does not have sufficient management of wells on an annual basis.
Giving a field a 5-year water allocation based on "Normal" or "Average" years and the ability to carry forward unused allocation only means that it will be difficult to have a water balance in dry years. ln the Republican basin, when water supplies get short, the state must maintain compliance on a two year average instead of a 5-year-average. The State will tell you the Natural Resource Districts (NRD) control wells, so they can not reduce pumping.
The State does control the NRD allocations and has some very sophisticated water models to help them predict and estimate. ln November of 2012, the State announced the 2013 water year would be a "Compact Call" year.
A compact call year means reservoirs may be required to by-pass water (not store) and surface irrigators may not be allowed to divert water from the river.
These actions are in the NRD lntegrated Management Plans (IMPs). The issue here is the IMPs were drafted between the State and the NRDs without the concurrence or approval of the surface users who are to be sacrificed.
Some believe that because they had a public hearing (some testimonies opposed the IMP) that everyone was in favor of these actions. I am sure if the roles were reversed and the irrigation districts had IMPs they would say to shut off wells even if the NRD' opposed them and it would be called a consensus.
The Preliminary Basin Forecast given by the State in November 2013 for the 2014 water year projected the Lower Republican Natural Resource District would have a -13,100 acre-feet balance, the Middle Republican NRD would have a -3,850 acre-feet balance and the Upper Republican NRD would have a -15,450 acre-feet balance.
I realize that nothing has been pumped yet and there is still time to avoid the damages producers will face. There is no will or desire to do so. Those in charge must believe it is better to devastate the few than to inconvenience the many.
This philosophy appears to contradict the IMPs, which have a goal to "ensure that groundwater and surface water users within the Basin assume their share, but only their share, of the responsibility to keep Nebraska in compliance with the Compact."
It is understandable why lawsuits have been filed and more are contemplated.
Bostwick Irrigation District