Letter to the Editor

Sustainable aquifer

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dear Editor,

I am only one of numerous farmers along the river that is concerned. My views represent many of the irrigators that will be shut off, especially those who did not go around the intent of the legislature and the settlement requirements. I have data and documents for what I say and I do not try to distort or mislead. What is wrong with a sustainable aquifer?

I feel the land owner will get some compensation. As a landowner without much debt, I can survive as a dryland farmer. Most of my land is farmed by tenants, which is the same for a majority of operations. The Rapid Response would have been shut off most likely 5 of the last 10 years, and as the aquifer is depleted, it will only get worse. What do those tenants or the business and communities that depend on them do? When surface water acres got shut off in 2002 there was compensation for those who received no water or didn't have a well from Federal Crop insurance because of drought. There is nothing for the tenants if they are shut off now.

I did support them as they said they would be fair and equitable. There are several other thing that could be done that are in the statutes for that purpose.

1. "The Legislature finds that ownership of water is held by the state for the benefit of its citizens."

2. "Every landowner shall be entitled to a reasonable and beneficial use of the ground water underlying his or her land subject to the provisions of Chapter 46, article 6, and the Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act and the correlative rights of other landowners when the ground water supply is insufficient to meet the reasonable needs of all users."

3. Any well drilled after July 1, 1998 can be treated different.

4. Any well drilled after January 1, 2001 can be shut off.

5. The settlement and base allotment for the NRD's are based upon the 1998-2002 period. Only allow those irrigated acres that were certified as irrigated acres with the FSA and/or assessed as irrigated with the county assessor be irrigated.

Yes those who added acres would be hurt, but they knew when they got the additional acres, they were subject to these laws. The definition of Fair is; free from bias, dishonest or injustice. Shutting off those irrigated acres is fair, which look like it could be more acres then the Rapid Response acres and then use the occupational tax to buy out or give "just compensation" for the farmer/tenant if they still need to shut off additional wells, is just as they were warned. It would be fair for those who didn't expand. The NRD's "will be fairly compensated" is not the answer, especially if the IMP is considered fair. In one of the opinions it says it is fair is to deplete almost all the surface water used for irrigation, requiring those irrigators to continue to pay for the irrigation projects required by state law, and then charge them an occupation tax whenever they get a partial supply of water, but if they are in a water short period, they don't get the water. Is it fair when the IMP state in a water short year. DNR will take all natural flow and storage permits in the basin and only release then when the NRD's say so?

Is it fair to shut off the most productive and economical irrigation with considerable higher yields using considerably less water, and allow those who have less yield and used more water continue to deplete the aquifer?

Yes there are declines in the Hitchcock and Red Willow areas north of the river. That area had surface water irrigation for over a hundred years that had built up a mound of water just like the areas where Central Platte have canals and irrigation. Stop that surface water irrigation and the water table will drop like a rock. In the URNRD, irrigation has lowered the water level up to 70 feet away from the Frenchman River.

That decline in conjunction of pumping in the vicinity of the river causes the ground water level to decline below the river causes the river to stop flowing. In the '60s, the Frenchman started flowing just east of the Colorado border. It now starts just west of Imperial and it won't be long before Enders will be a dry lake unless something is done to prevent it. There are three studies from the '70s and a '95 study that showed what was happening, what did happen and what was going to happen to a very high degree of accuracy and I know the URNRD has them. As the Frenchman was dried up, surface water irrigators put in wells to keep irrigating in the counties east of Chase County and along the Republican.

When the surface water was no longer available after 2000, the wells pumped down the mound. The wells away from the river also lowered that water table which compounds the problem as less water flowed underground to the streams and river. It just takes longer for when pumping down the water table away from the river to have a effect on the river, but the total amount of the draw down over a period of time does affect the stream flow and that is called a lag effect. It would take too much space to explain, but percentage of declines is another way they have of justifying allowing the shutting off of irrigation close to a stream or river.

Simplified, all the streams and rivers in the URNRD and MRNRD along with the Medicine Creek have declines in the aquifer in their upper reaches which is why the stream flow is declining. In wet spells like the last few years the declines slow or stop and in places actually increase, but when it turns drier the declines are worse.

The best way to describe it is the basin is like a bowl full of water with the Republican on the south edge. Next to the edge there isn't much depth of water and the further away from the edge the deeper it gets. You do not have to take out much water to cause a large percentage of declines at the edge but in the deep part of the bowl, it is a very little percent of decline.

As they continue to allow depletion to the aquifer it will only cause the area close to a river to get shut off more times and length of time plus more distance from the river

The nitrates are a problem anywhere you have only a few feet of soil over the water table to absorb it so it got to the aquifer sooner. The uplands had the same fertility practices.

I am concerned what the IMP will do to the farmer/tenants and the communities.

Claude Cappel


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: