Agreement gives Nebraska credit for augmentation
Imperial, Neb. -- An agreement reached Wednesday gives Nebraska 100 percent credit for augmentation water NRDs are pumping this year to maintain compliance with the Republican River Compact, and ensures water being stored in Harlan County Reservoir for compliance purposes won't go to waste.
According to a release from the Upper Republican Natural Resources District, the agreement approved by the Republican River Compact Administration in Denver could be a precursor to a similar deal for 2015 and illustrates a new, positive working relationship between Kansas and Nebraska that benefits water users in both states.
"The resolution approved by the RRCA allows water now being held in Harlan County Reservoir to be released to Kansas during the 2015 irrigation season when it can be beneficially used, without compromising Nebraska's ability to maintain compact compliance," said Jim Schneider, deputy director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources who chaired the RRCA meeting on Wednesday. "The ability of the states to work together in resolving these issues is a significant step forward."
Combined, the Rock Creek Augmentation Project in Dundy County operated by the Upper Republican NRD and the NCORPE augmentation project in Lincoln County operated by the Upper Republican, Middle Republican and Lower Republican and Twin Platte NRDs in 2014 will add approximately 63,500 acre feet of water to the Republican River system. Had the agreement approved Wednesday not been approved, Nebraska would get credit for just 37,000 acre feet.
"This agreement reflects the intent of the compact settlement, giving the appropriate credit for augmentation and allowing our downstream neighbors every opportunity to use the water that the irrigators and taxpayers in the Basin paid to provide through the projects implemented under the settlement agreement. The agreement should provide Nebraskans assurance that water being added to streams in 2014 effectively prevented a shutdown of more than 300,000 irrigated acres in the basin this year and that we aren't being required to do more than what we should under the agreement. The fact Kansas and Nebraska were able to reach an agreement that accomplishes this and at the same time benefits both Kansas and Nebraska water users should be commended," said Jasper Fanning, General Manager of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District.
Had the agreement not been struck, Nebraska potentially would have been forced to release roughly 30,000 acre feet of water now stored in Harlan County reservoir for compliance purposes downstream to Kansas during fall and winter months when it couldn't be used by irrigators, as well as passing inflows through the reservoir for the rest of the year.
Under the agreement approved Wednesday by the three states party to the compact, Kansas water users could get 20,000-25,000 acre feet next year, and the balance could be used by irrigators in the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District.
The agreement Wednesday comes on the heels of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court last week regarding a special master's recommendations that 300,000 acres of irrigated land in the Republican Basin not be permanently shut down as Kansas had requested and that Nebraska pay a penalty of $5.5 million for overuse in 2005 and 2006 instead of the approximately $80 million Kansas had sought. A final decision by the court on that matter is expected by the end of June.