Letter to the Editor

NRD responds

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dear Editor,

Recent comments made in these pages by Tom Kiplinger demand a response from the Upper Republican Natural Resources District.

When he sued the state three years ago, Mr. Kiplinger scolded the editorial board of the Omaha World Herald for using what he called inflammatory terms when discussing a water matter. He said in these pages at the time that terms used by the paper did "not help in a reasoned discourse on a difficult topic."

Mr. Kiplinger's recent letter to the editor did not contribute to a reasoned discourse on a difficult topic. Name-calling and incomplete information only contributes to an unnecessary polarization of neighbors throughout the Republican River Basin as everyone from Imperial, to McCook, to Alma tries to navigate the type of difficult topic Mr. Kiplinger urged "reasoned discourse" on three years ago. We've made a lot of progress on that topic: Earlier this month a court-appointed arbitrator said Nebraska "is now on track for future compliance" with the Republican River Compact. The plans adopted by the Upper and Middle Republican NRD boards will clearly have the least economic impact on the region and will protect area lakes.Mr. Kiplinger surmises that the plan is not fair because not everyone or every water well is treated equal. Fair is defined as lacking prejudice, and being honest.

Equality does not always contribute to fairness, and under Mr. Kiplinger's definition of equality, every water user would have had to reduce water use by 60 percent. By contrast, the plans adopted require a 20 percent reduction of all water users, 33 percent near the stream, but only if water leases, augmentation, and buyouts aren't implemented. So, even those water users who might feel slighted by the plans are allowed to use more water and receive compensation in the event they would forgo water use. Mr. Kiplinger's asserted "treat everyone equal" plan would have required them to use much less water and receive no compensation. In other words equal, but much, much worse for everyone.

Setting an equal allocation for all water users would unnecessarily devastate the local economy and would have been unfair to everyone in the region. The plans had to achieve compact compliance which is based upon surface water flows. So to be effective, plans must recognize the reality that not all wells have the same impact on surface water flow, as impacts of wells vary by time, location, and amount. To be fair, the plans had to recognize these very real hydrologic differences. Fairness is reached in the plans by undertaking very expensive water-management projects, water leases and buyouts to protect the relatively few irrigators near the river from being involuntarily shut off. Even though the burden of these expensive projects is paid mostly by groundwater irrigators not near the stream, they don't view that paying for the measures intended to protect their friends and neighbors near the stream as "unfair."

Mr. Kiplinger also states that I "couldn't care less about Red Willow and Hitchcock County's economic stress in a shut down" that is possible, but unlikely, in the plans we approved. I've never talked with Mr. Kiplinger. I don't understand how he knows what I do and do not care about. Had he initiated the type of "reasoned discourse" he has stated that he wants on water matters he may have learned something that would have prevented him from printing this fiction.

I may have revealed to Mr. Kiplinger that I have family members who farm close to the river so could be shut down. I haven't been real popular with them in recent months. But this isn't a popularity contest or a perpetual campaign. It's about making hard decisions that will protect the local economy and put the state on a path to compact compliance. And those who have taken the time to learn the facts recognize that the water plan we chose was the best option before us.

Jasper Fanning, Ph.D,


Upper Republican NRD