Could drain tubes solve Compact conflict?
How do we get more water into the Republican River? Could it be as simple as redesigning existing pasture dams to have drain down tubes installed?
The 8 inch to 12 inch tubes would allow water from rainfall events to slowly drain out of the pasture dams and make its way to the Republican River.
Note: This solution does not remove any of the pasture dams, as they provide a valuable service for us, it only redesigns them. The tubes can be set an elevation that allows water to remain for livestock, wildlife, its. This solution also does not require additional costs after installation; if it rains, the water flows to the river.
In my opinion, given the Compact language of Article XI, the Compact states should demand that the United States install these draindown tubes. Almost all of these pasture dams were built after the Compact was signed. They were designed, built to federal specs and paid for entirely or on a cost-share basis through a variety of federal agencies. The dams hold back water, which decreases streamflow, which interferes with the full beneficial consumptive use of the waters within the basin.
The Compact states were utilizing the waters of the basin for beneficial consumptive use through irrigation from the resource.
The United States, through the federal agencies, interfered with that use when they installed the dams that interfered with streamflows. The installation of the draindown tubes will help decrease that interference and help restore streamflows.
This solution will help in several ways. Any additional water that is measured at a river gauge is added into the formulas for compact compliance. The evaporation from some pasture dams is counted in the formulas for compact compliance. If the water flows through, there is no evaporation to calculate. Additional streamflow also will help to keep the river channel free of debris.
The Republican River Basin is a 24,900-square-mile watershed, almost 16 million acres. The water draining from one pasture dam may not amount to very much, but the water draining from a large percentage of the dams located on 16 million acres will.
At a meeting I attended they showed aerial photos that vividly illustrated the amount of water being held back by pasture dams and terraces after a heavy rain.
If this aerial photo was worth a thousand words, we need to know how many thousands of acre feet of water will be added to the Republican River if that water in the pasture dams is allowed to flow to the river.
I would hope that some research will be done on the feasibility of this proposed solution. Perhaps some drainage areas that drain to the locations of the gauges on the Republican River could be done as a pilot program. More streamflow at the river gauges provides us with the best chance of helping to achieve Compact compliance.