Republican River Water Conservation District quarterly board meeting, April 10 #COWaterPlan

April 3, 2014
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

It is time for the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors to hold its regular quarterly meeting in Yuma. It will be held at Quintech on Thursday, April 10, beginning at 10 a.m. Public comment is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The board will receive a report from Assistant Attorney General Scott Steinbrecher on the negotiations with Kansas regarding compliance with the Republican River Compact, the Bonny Reservoir accounting issue, and the compact compliance pipeline. There also could be other matters addressed by Steinbrecher.

The pipeline has been put to use this past winter as Kansas agreed to a one-year test run in 2014. Tracy Travis, the pipeline manager, will provide a report on the pipeline.

Conservation has been a focus, particularly with a symposium sponsored by the RRWCD and local businesses held last month highlighting the need to conserve the Ogallala Aquifer, the region’s source of water. The board will discuss conservation survey results during the April 10 meeting.

Also on the agenda, HDR Engineering will give a report regarding the Colorado Water Plan. There also will be a presentation on the Great Divide.

The board will consider purchasing agency bonds, and receive reports on various recent meetings and programs.

Quintech is located at 529 N. Albany St. in Yuma. For further information, or having any questions, please call RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 970-332-3552, or email her at deb.daniel@rrwcd.net. The RRWCD website is http://www.republicanriver.com.


Republican River Basin ‘State of the Basin’ symposium recap

March 20, 2014

republicanriversouthfork

From The Yuma Pioneer (Bill Boas):

“The aquifer is depleting rapidly…should we be concerned?” That was the label on several cases of half-filled bottles of drinking water served with lunch at the “State of the Basin Symposium” held this past Monday at the Wray High School Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The symposium was sponsored by the Conservation Committee of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD).

About 250 people packed the auditorium to hear prominent speakers from Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska present a situation report on water issues affecting the Republican River Basin’s many thirsty users. When water is short, state lines become battlegrounds and the recent legal battle between Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska points to a future that can’t be “business as usual” for Great Plains water users.

Principal speakers included; Congressman Cory Garner, who was rescheduled from 4 p.m. to 1p.m.; Colorado Supreme Court Justice and water law expert Gregory Hobbs; Dick Wolfe, Colorado State Engineer; Scott Steinbrecher, Colorado Assistant Attorney General; officials of water conservation districts in adjacent Kansas and Nebraska; and experts from academic and private water engineering firms.

With population growing, and water supplies fixed, aggressive water conservation practices surfaces as one humanly manageable variable in the complex climatic, hydraulic, legal, and distribution environment of the Republican River Basin.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Basin: State of the Basin Symposium, March 17

February 24, 2014
Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District

From The Yuma Pioneer (Deb Daniel):

The Republican River Water Conservation District along with numerous businesses throughout the Basin are working together to co-sponsor The State of the Basin symposium. During this one-day event speakers will give presentations that will address these concerns. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and to offer input.

The State of the Basin symposium is free and open to the public. It will be held on Monday, March 17th at the Wray High School auditorium from 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM. RSVP is requested to assist in planning for the meal.

For more information contact the RRWCD office at (970) 332-3552.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Basin: Colorado begins moving water through the Compact Compliance Pipeline

February 6, 2014

Colorado Compliance pipeline measuring flume via the Yuma Pioneer

From the Imperial Republican (Russ Pankonin):

With the go-ahead from Kansas, Colorado began pumping water from their northeast Colorado augmentation project. The Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP) started delivering water to the North Fork of the Republican River on Friday, Jan. 17, according to Deb Daniel, manager of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) in Wray, Colo.

Daniel said the CCP is scheduled to deliver approximately 4,000 acre feet of water prior to April 1. This should put Colorado in compliance with the 2003 Republican River Compact Settlement with Kansas.

In late summer 2014, Colorado will calculate if the state will be in compliance depending on weather conditions and the amount of water that is pumped in the basin during the summer months.

If additional water is required, the pipeline will deliver the necessary acre feet to be in compliance with the compact, prior to the end of 2014, Daniel said…

Daniel said the current well field, which consists of eight wells, has an annual capacity of around 15,000 acre feet. She said they plan to add seven more in the future.

RRWCD purchased the water rights to 58 irrigation wells in eastern Yuma County. The appropriations from these wells were transferred to the new well field, she said.

Water delivered by the pipeline is measured in the channel just prior to the water flowing into the river. The water passes through an open concrete flume equipped with a measuring device to calculate the amount of water delivered to the river.

Each of the wells are also equipped with flow meters to measure the amount pumped. RRWCD can pump no more from the well field than the historic consumptive use of the 58 wells.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


Republican River Basin: Over-pumping will be part of the permanent well record under new rule

January 25, 2014
Yuma Colorado circa 1925

Yuma Colorado circa 1925

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Any overpumping of a large-capacity well from now on will remain on that well’s permanent record, no matter how many times ownership might change.

The Colorado Division of Water Resources held a meeting in Wray last week to discuss the overpumping issue. It was reported that about 60 people attended. State Engineer Dick Wolfe was among those representing the state government.

The state enforced overpumping orders beginning with the 2012 irrigation year. A total of 292 wells were overpumped, which actually accounts for only 8.8 percent of the 3,300 active high-capacity wells in Colorado’s Republican River Basin. Total overpumping by those 292 wells was 14,819 acre-feet, which is about the same amount as the maximum that could ever be sent downstream into Nebraska by the compact compliance pipeline. (Per the pipeline’s wells historical consumptive use.)

As reported in the past, the state issued orders dictating a one-for-one reduction in pumping in 2013 for those offending wells, i.e., a well that overpumped its allowed amount by 50 acre-feet in 2012 was to pump 50 acre-feet below its allowed amount in 2013.

All offending wells that complied with the overpumping orders in 2013 will be allowed to return to normally permitted acre-foot allocations in 2014.

It was reported last week at the Wray meeting that only 18 of the 3,300 high-capacity wells (0.5 percent) overpumped during the 2013 irrigation season. The total overpumped amount was 393.6 acre feet.

Of those 18, three were wells that also overpumped in 2012, meaning the owners did not follow the required overpumping orders from the state. Division of Water Resource staff is in the process of filing complaints with the court against those well owners. State officials said they will collect fines for pumping in violation of the orders. The Attorney General’s Office is in the process of preparing a settlement package for each owner, which the owners have the option to either agree to and sign or not.

The owners will be under orders again in 2014, only this time it will be a two acre-foot reduction for every one acre-foot overpumped.

Those wells will now be under order to never overpump again, and if do, the owners could be subjected to additional hefty fines, contempt and possibly more.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Drought news: The #COdrought is not over by a long shot, 15 counties designated by USDA

January 16, 2014

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo and 14 other Colorado counties have received drought disaster designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The designation makes farmers in the counties eligible for federal assistance, including Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

The Arkansas Valley has been in a widespread drought since August 2010, but some areas have experienced drought conditions since 2000. [ed. emphasis mine] Lower precipitation, decreased stream flows and declining soil moisture levels have degraded farm and rangeland. Farmers have thinned cattle herds and cut back on production.

Ten other counties contiguous to those also are in the drought disaster declaration.

“Farmers in Southeastern Colorado are facing extreme drought conditions that are devastating their crops and hurting local economies,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said. “The availability of these needed resources will be welcome news for struggling family farms that have worked this land for generations.”

Bennet added the designation underscores the need for a comprehensive farm bill to give agricultural producers more certainty and stability.

The counties included in the drought designation are: Baca, Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley, El Paso, Kiowa, Kit Carson, Las Animas, Lincoln, Otero, Phillips, Prowers, Pueblo, Sedgwick and Yuma. Surrounding counties are: Arapahoe, Costilla, Custer, Douglas, Elbert, Fremont, Huerfano, Logan, Teller and Washington.


Republican River Water Conservation District meeting January 9 in Burlington

January 7, 2014
Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District

From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

he Republican River Water Conservation Board of Directors will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, January 9, in Burlington. It will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Burlington Community and Education Center, 340 S. 14th. Public comment will be heard at 1 p.m.

The board will hear updated reports from State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Scott Steinbrecher on the arbitration between Colorado and Kansas regarding the pipelien and Bonny proposals, as well as the RRCA’s approval for operation of the pipeline in 2014.

Reports from the district’s engineers and attorneys also are on the agenda, as well as routine business such designating public posting places for RRWCD meetings, and hearing reports from board members.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Basin: Compliance pipeline a go for 2014

December 23, 2013
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

Here’s an insider’s look at operating the compliance pipeline in 2014, from Deb Daniel, Republican River Water Conservancy District General Manager, running in The Yuma Pioneer:

Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have unanimously approved a resolution that allows Colorado to operate the Compact Compliance Pipeline and deliver water to the North Fork of the Republican River for one year – 2014.

It was hailed as being made possible thanks to the continuous efforts and cooperation of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD), the Sandhills Groundwater Management District and the State of Colorado.

On May 5, 2013, Colorado submitted to the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) the resolution approving and Augmentation Plan for the Colorado Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP). Nebraska and Colorado voted in favor of the resolution. Kansas voted against it. Colorado then instituted mandatory non-binding arbitration disputing Kansas’ decision and requesting the arbitrator find Kansas had acted unreasonably. During a three-day hearing, October 1-3, 2013, arbitrator Martha Pagel, listened to testimony regarding the pipeline proposal. She published her decision on November 27 regarding the arbitration – finding that, although Colorado had met all the requirements for approval of the pipeline, Kansas nevertheless did not act unreasonably in not approving it.

However, one day before her decision was published, Kansas Chief Engineer David Barfield reached out to Dick Wolfe, state engineer for Colorado, with a proposal that would allow Colorado temporary use of the pipeline.

Colorado and the RRWCD carefully considered the proposal from Kansas, and with the cooperation of the Sandhills GWD, drafted and presented a new resolution during a special meeting of the RRCA held Thursday, December 19. During the special meeting, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska discussed the resolution for the temporary use of the pipeline. Barfield stated that Kansas and Colorado have made great strides in closing the gap of disagreement concerning the use of the pipeline. Kansas continues to not agree to the resolution which Colorado presented to the RRCA in May 2013, but Barfield said he saw the temporary approval as a way of gaining experience and insight into pipeline operations.

Brian Dunnigan, RRCA Commissioner from Nebraska, stated Nebraska supported the resolution from Colorado. Dunnigan also pointed out that this resolution does not give long-term assurances to Colorado water users in their extensive efforts to try to reach compact compliance. He stated that he hoped the RRCA could reach permanent resolution of all outstanding issues.

Wolfe thanked his staff and the Colorado Attorney General’s staff in all their efforts to negotiate with Kansas. He thanked the Republican River Water Conservation District and the Sandhills GWMD for all that they have done to assist Colorado in trying to reach compact compliance. Wolfe also stated his appreciation to the legal counsel and engineering consultants for the RRWCD and their efforts in assisting Colorado with this monumental task.

Following Wolfe’s request for a vote approving the resolution, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska voted unanimously in favor of approving the use of the compact compliance pipeline in 2014 as stated in the resolution.

Since the RRWCD will be operating the Compact Compliance Pipeline in 2014, the RRWCD Board of Directors has terminated the water lease to Cure Land, LLC and Cure Land II LLC.

Dennis Coryell, RRWCD board president, stated, “This is a great day for the people of the Republican River Basin; it is a monumental step forward towards permanent compact compliance. It supports the certainty of the future of agriculture and the economy it supports within the basin.”

“Although this approval is only temporary, it allows Colorado to show the other states the CCP can be operated and will provide a benefit to the water users in Nebraska and Kansas,” he continued. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era where the states can work together to solve the problems facing all three states and we can soon have permanent approval to operate the CCP.”

Coryell went on to thank Barfield for initiating this temporary approval. He thanked Wolfe and the personnel of the State of Colorado for all of their hard work. Coryell also expressed his appreciation to Barfield and Dunnigan for supporting Colorado’s resolution to operate the pipeline.

“Thanks to the Sandhills Groundwater Management District and District Manager Nate Midcap for their approval to export water from their district,” he added.

“I especially want to thank the water users within Colorado’s Republican River Basin for their long-standing and continued support of the efforts of the RRWCD,” Coryell concluded. “It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we work together and succeed in finding a way to move forward toward our goals.”

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


Colorado takes important step in resolving Republican River dispute

December 21, 2013
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Todd Hartman):

Colorado this week completed successful negotiations with Kansas and Nebraska to allow for operation of the Compact Compliance Pipeline to deliver water to the North Fork of the Republican River in 2014. The agreement marks an important step toward resolving long-standing disputes under the Republican River Compact and providing more certainty to the agricultural economy across the region.

The agreement allows Colorado to operate the pipeline in 2014 and demonstrate its benefits to agricultural operators in Kansas and Nebraska. The 12-mile pipeline will deliver irrigation water directly to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line, providing the water necessary for Colorado to meet its Compact obligations with Kansas and Nebraska.

“This is a great step forward,” said Colorado’s State Engineer Dick Wolfe. “This has been a hard-fought matter, and hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three States to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”

Colorado sought arbitration of this matter in May after Kansas denied Colorado’s request to operate the pipeline indefinitely to comply with the Compact. This fall, Kansas proposed a path forward that would allow Colorado to operate the pipeline for Compact compliance in 2014 so all parties could gain experience with its operations.

On Thursday, the three states voted to approve a resolution to use the pipeline in 2014. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and its Division of Water Resources, along with the State Engineer, express their appreciation to the Attorney General’s Office in its efforts to negotiate with Kansas, and also thank the Republican River Water Conservation District and the Sandhills Ground Water Management District for their efforts to assist in reaching a resolution.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas have agreed to use a 12-mile pipeline to transfer water from wells in northeastern Colorado to the Republican River for agriculture in Kansas and Nebraska in 2014.

The deal made this week may help resolve a decades-old dispute over rights to water in the river, which flows from eastern Colorado into Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado hasn’t been meeting its obligations under the 1942 Republican River Compact that governs use of the river.

In May, Colorado officials sought arbitration after Kansas rejected a request to use the pipeline to meet its obligations under the compact.

Kansas also has argued that Nebraska farmers took more than their share of river water and tried to stop Nebraskans from irrigating 500,000 acres in the 5.8 million-acre Republican River Basin.

The pipeline would carry irrigation water pumped out of the ground into wells north of Wray and deliver that water to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line. Colorado natural resources officials said Friday the pipeline potentially could deliver 13,000 acre-feet of water a year to Nebraska.

State engineer Dick Wolfe called the deal to use the pipeline “a great step forward” in a hard-fought matter. “Hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three states to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in recent years has convened state legal officials to encourage collaboration. Past agreements have aimed at state monitoring and control over water use to comply with the compact, which allotted 300,000 acre-feet a year for Nebraska, 240,000 acre-feet a year for Kansas and 40,000 acre-feet a year for Colorado.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


Republican River Basin: Nebraska makes compact call

December 16, 2013
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

From the Imperial Republican (Russ Pankonin) via The Yuma Pioneer:

Based on the lack of surface water available for delivery in the Republican River Basin in 2014, the Department of Natural Resources has declared 2014 as a compact call year. DNR is forecasting that 2014 will be a “dry year.” That forecast leading to the compact-call-year declaration creates implications for both surface water and groundwater irrigators in the basin.

For surface water irrigators, it will mean that any water that comes into their storage reservoirs after Jan. 1, 2014, must be passed on through. It also means the water available to the surface water irrigators will likely be reduced again in 2014. In 2013, DNR made the same declaration.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Basin: Special Master William Kayatta, Jr. reduces Nebraska’s damages to $5.5 million

December 10, 2013
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

Here’s a report the Imperial Republican (Russ Pankonin) via The Yuma Pioneer. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Last Friday’s report by Special Master William Kayatta, Jr. gave Nebraska the upper hand in a dispute between Kansas and Nebraska that dates back to 2010.

“The decision could have only been $5.5 million better,” said Upper Republican Manager Jasper Fanning. Kayatta said Kansas was entitled to damages of $5.5 million versus the $80 million they had sought.

Fanning said the only way the report could have been more favorable for Nebraska was if Kansas hadn’t gotten any damages at all, he noted. Fanning said the reduction in damages was important. But even bigger was a change in the accounting process that ultimately determines how much water is available to Nebraska, he added. That will be worth many times more over the years than the $5.5 million Nebraska will have to pay Kansas, Fanning said.

In addition to the accounting change, Kayatta said Nebraska should not be charged for evaporation that occurred from Harlan County reservoir in 2006.

These two rulings will gain the basin from 16,000 to 18,000 acre feet towards water use calculations for 2007.

In addition, the accounting change will result in additional water supply annually, Fanning said. That additional water will be a boost in helping Nebraska stay in compliance with the 2002 settlement agreement reached with Kansas over basin water supplies, he added.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


Republican River Basin: Arbiter Martha Pagel issues ruling on compliance pipeline

December 5, 2013
Republican River Basin

Republican River Basin

From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl) via the Imperial Republican:

Colorado and Nebraska entered into arbitration with Kansas earlier this year after Kansas’ representative on the Republican River Compact Administration voted against Colorado’s proposals on both issues.

The hearing was held before arbiter Martha Pagel earlier this fall, and Pagel issued separate rulings on both issues last Wednesday, November 27. In essence, Pagel ruled Colorado is taking the proper steps, but that Kansas remains “reasonable” in its objections.

“Although the Arbitrator found that Colorado’s revised Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP) proposal had made significant progress in addressing unresolved issues from the prior arbitration proceeding, and that Colorado had offered a reasonable and persuasive proposal for modifying inputs to the Groundwater Model, the district is disappointed that Arbiter Pagel was not able to provide Colorado with any relief from the obstructionist behavior of Kansas officials,” stated the Republican River Water Conservation District in a statement issued by its legal representative, Peter Ampe of Hill & Robbins. Read the rest of this entry »


Kansas and the Corps of Engineers are taking another look at the Kansas Aqueduct

October 26, 2013
Kansas Aqueduct route via Circle of Blue

Kansas Aqueduct route via Circle of Blue

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

The new analysis, to be started this year and completed in 2015, will reassess the Kansas Aqueduct, one of four projects evaluated 31 years ago to provide water to high plains farms in Kansas and reduce the draw on the Ogallala aquifer, the region’s primary source of water for irrigation. None of the water transport projects that were evaluated in the 1982 study were built.

But one project, the Kansas Aqueduct, which would draw water from a turn in the Missouri River about 145 kilometers (90 miles) upstream of Kansas City, and drop it into a reservoir roughly 600 kilometers (375 miles) away in western Kansas, attracted significant attention.

The cost of the new $US 300,000 study will be shared equally by the state and the federal government, said Mark Rude, executive director of the Southwest Kansas Groundwater Management District. Rude added that the region’s strong farm economy and the urgency of extending the Ogallala’s life as a source of water to agriculture make this a useful period to reconsider the Kansas Aqueduct.

“The Kansas Aqueduct Project must be pursued while production income, property values and the economic system are in place to support the project,” Rude wrote in a June letter to state water officials…

Because of high plains geology and climate, water percolates into the aquifer each year in inches; but in order to sustain a thriving grain-and-cattle industry, water is pumped out in feet.

The farmers and cattlemen in Rude’s district in southwest Kansas know this fact all too well. Rude told Circle of Blue that current rates of groundwater extraction – mining, really – are about nine percent sustainable. In other words, the amount of water pumped out of that part of the aquifer would have to be cut by 90 percent to find a balance. Such a reduction would decimate the region’s towns.

Over the years, all that water has created a more prosperous life on the plains than the early pioneers could ever have imagined. The economic structure, formidable for the time being, collapses without water.

“Everything we need is here already,” Rude says, talking about the grain elevators, equipment dealers and related agricultural infrastructure in western Kansas. “But new investment needs water-confidence. How do we provide that when we are cutting water use? It’s ideal to have both cuts and new supplies and manage the aquifer more like a reservoir.”

Farmers in northwest Kansas, in Sheridan County, have agreed to self-imposed restrictions on the amount of water they draw from the Ogallala. It is an experiment that has yet to catch on elsewhere in the state.

Economics are foremost in Rude’s mind because the aqueduct would be a whopper of a project, at least double the estimated $US 3.6 billion price tag three decades ago, and comparable in scale to massive water diversions like the 540-kilometer (360-mile) Central Arizona Project that was approved before the Carter administration and built mostly with federal money.

Rude scoffs at the suggestion that a Kansas aqueduct is a relic of a by-gone age. “I’m comfortable if you say it’s a Roman project in the 21st century,” he said, recalling the channels that satiated Caesar’s capital more than two millennia ago. “The aquifer is a question that has to be dealt with.”


Yuma: EPA Q&A on Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures June 26

June 17, 2013

yumaaerialcirca1925

From email from US Representative Cory Gardner:

UPCOMING EVENT: Q&A on Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures

In conjunction with the Colorado Farm Bureau, we will be hosting an informational session for farmers and ranchers regarding the Spill Prevention and Control Countermeasures (SPCC) on Wednesday June 26 at 9am at 529 N. Albany Street in Yuma.

A representative from the Environmental Protection Agency will be on hand to discuss what is expected under new SPCC guidelines for storing fuel and petroleum products. SPCC regulations apply to any agricultural operation that stores over 1,320 gallons of oil, and it went into effect on May 10, 2013.

Anyone with questions concerning SPCC is encouraged to attend this informational session.

WHO: Congressman Cory Gardner’s office and Colorado Farm Bureau

WHAT: Informational session and Q&A with EPA representative on SPCC guidelines

WHEN: Wednesday June 26 at 9am

WHERE: 529 N. Albany Street, Yuma in the gymnasium


Drought news: Many eyes are on the water in the Missouri River reservoirs #CODrought

December 8, 2012

missouririverbasin.jpg

From The Winona Daily News (David A. Lieb):

From Montana to West Virginia, officials on both sides have written President Barack Obama urging him to intervene _ or not _ in a long-running dispute over whether water from the Missouri’s upstream reservoirs should be released into the Mississippi River to ease low water levels that have imperiled commercial traffic.

The quarrel pits boaters, fishermen and tourism interests against communities downstream and companies that rely on the Mississippi to do business.

“We are back to the age-old old battle of recreation and irrigation verses navigation,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri.

If the water is held back, downstream states warn that shipping on the Mississippi could come to a near standstill sometime after Christmas along a 180-mile stretch between St. Louis and the southern Illinois town of Cairo. But if the water is released, upstream communities worry that the toll of the drought could be even worse next year for farms and towns that depend on the Missouri.

Obama has not decided whether to enter the dispute, nor has the White House set a timetable to respond. But tensions are rising in this decades-old battle.

From his perch as executive director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port Authority, Dan Overbey watched this week as workers scrambled to ship out as much grain as possible before the Mississippi gets so low that it is not economically feasible or physically possible to move loaded-down barges…

More than 800 miles to the northwest, Michael Dwyer was also stewing. He’s the executive vice president of the North Dakota Water Users Association.

To Dwyer, the downriver interests are “taking selfishness” to “a level you can’t even comprehend.”

“We suffered the impact of these reservoirs” when they were created decades ago by dams that flooded 500,000 acres of bottomland, Dwyer said. “To have some use of the resource only seems appropriate.”

At the Mississippi River port near Cape Girardeau, Mo., about a million tons of cargo are loaded or unloaded annually, providing about 200 jobs, Overbey said.

The water is also vital in parts of the Dakotas, where the dammed-up Missouri River has spawned a tourism industry centered on boating and fishing…

Over the past three decades, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed challenging the management of the river, many of which set Missouri and other downstream states against the Dakotas and other upstream states.

The battles started in 1982, when Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska challenged a government contract allowing water to be drawn from the Missouri River in South Dakota to flush coal through a pipeline to power plants in the southeast. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the project, but other lawsuits followed, including an effort by upstream states to reduce the water released from dams in an attempt to boost sport fishing in the reservoirs.

Missouri, meanwhile, sued the Army Corps of Engineers when it held back water because of droughts and shortened the navigation season. Environmental groups also joined the court battles, advocating for spring surges and summer declines in downstream river levels to help threatened species of birds and fish.

So far, no lawsuits have been filed in the current competition for water. But battle lines have been drawn…

The Corps of Engineers, which manages both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, says its guidelines prohibit it from releasing water from the Missouri River reservoirs for the primary purpose of improving navigation on the Mississippi. That position was backed up by a 1990 report from the federal government’s General Accounting Office, though officials from downstream states believe Obama could trump that by declaring an emergency to avoid an “economic calamity.”


Missouri River Reuse Project from Reclamation would water the Front Range and help the Ogallala aquifer

December 6, 2012

ogallalaaquiferriverbasins.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A pipeline from the Missouri River to Colorado’s Front Range has the potential to bring water to two states — and into the Arkansas River basin — but has not been on the table in Colorado water discussions.

The Missouri River reuse option is being considered as one of about 100 proposals that would relieve pressure on diversion of water from the Colorado River basin. The Bureau of Reclamation began the study in 2009 to assess future supply and demand along the Colorado River and a final report should be coming out this month. Pueblo and other Front Range communities import water from the Colorado River basin each year, so new supplies could reduce that demand. The reuse would provide water to depleted aquifers across Kansas through diversion of up to 600,000 acre­feet annually from the Missouri River near Leavenworth, Kan. A description of the project on file with Reclamation indicates some of the water could reach the Arkansas River basin, north of Colorado Springs. It’s unclear from the documents available if the proposal has a sponsor.

The project would cost billions of dollars and likely face political hurdles. Although water would have to be pumped 600 miles and 5,000 feet uphill from Leavenworth in order to reach Denver, Reclamation rates the project as “technically feasible.”

Although specific plans to move water from Flaming Gorge and the Mississippi River, as well as more general options from the Missouri River, have been debated, the Kansas­Colorado plan has eluded discussion within Colorado.

“No, we have not talked about it,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. Barber also represents the roundtable on the Flaming Gorge Task Force, which has not reviewed the idea.

“We’ve gotten monthly reports on the Colorado River basin study,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “There has not been any discussion of this particular proposal.”

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Bureau of Reclamation officials on Tuesday said the “Missouri River Reuse Project” will be evaluated for feasibility following the release in coming weeks of a federal government study on water supply for the West.
“The state of Colorado has not taken a formal position on the pipeline or any of the options,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said…

The Missouri diversion described in Bureau of Reclamation documents would require a pipeline across Kansas, with water used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers along the way to metro Denver.
It would convey 600,000 acre-feet of water a year depending on Midwestern needs. An acre-foot has been regarded as enough water to sustain two families of four for a year.

“Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoirs such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr and Chatfield,” a project summary said. “Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.”

Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin, the summary continued…

The options for importing water reflect widening worries about future shortages. The Colorado River Basin, which spans Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, is the source of water for 30 million people. The government’s three-year Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study has found that within 50 years, the annual water deficit will reach 3.5 million acre-feet.

Bureau of Reclamation officials said their primary purpose was to define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand. They asked stakeholders and agencies across the seven basin states to submit ideas to prevent shortages. States have agreed to consider a Missouri River diversion. Other ideas are destined for an appendix.

Here’s the pitch from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

The Missouri River Reuse option is a diversion of up to 600,000 AFY of water from the Missouri River for reuse within the Missouri River Basin of Kansas and Colorado. Water would be diverted from the Missouri River only when flows to support navigation and municipal water diversions along the river from Leavenworth, Kansas to Saint Louis, Missouri, are not impaired.

  • 1. Within Kansas, the water would be used to fill surface reservoirs and recharge depleted aquifers in the upper and lower Republican River Basins, Solomon River Basin, and Smoky-Hill/Saline River Basin as determined from assessment of need and feasibility by the Kansas State Water Office in cooperation with the Kansas Division of Water Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, and the States of Colorado and Nebraska. In particular, the water would be used for irrigation and municipal, commercial, and industrial use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer in western Kansas. Each of these basins (including the Ogallala aquifer in northwest Kansas) is tributary to the Missouri River. The Ogallala aquifer discharges into the Republican River in northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas. Kansas may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.
  • 2. Along the Front Range of Colorado, the water (totaling 500 cfs or more as Colorado determines)
    would be used for municipal, commercial, and industrial use with return flows allocated for agricultural irrigation use within the South Platte River Basin (a tributary of the Missouri River). Some water could be used to recharge the bedrock aquifers of the Denver Basin. In eastern Colorado, some water could be used for irrigation and municipal use and to recharge the Ogallala aquifer. Water would likely be stored in Front Range reservoir such as Rueter-Hess, Carter, Barr, and Chatfield and in designated alluvial storage along the South Platte River. Colorado may choose to construct new reservoirs or enlarge existing reservoirs for the project.

  • 3. Some water may be available for use outside the Missouri River Basin, particularly that portion of the water in the Missouri River which is non-native (originating as transmountain diversions from the
    Colorado and Arkansas Rivers in Colorado and nontributary Denver Basin ground-water withdrawals). Some of this water could be directed to the Arkansas River in western and central Kansas and in eastern Colorado beginning near Colorado Springs. Some water could also be directed to the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin through pipelines and tunnels when there is great need to relieve drought in the basin provided the navigation and municipal supply flows in the Missouri River are plentiful and other water needs of western Kansas and eastern Colorado are being reasonably satisfied.
  • The location of the Missouri River diversion point is in Leavenworth County, Kansas near the City of Leavenworth. The water would be treated and disinfected at a large treatment plant to be designed and constructed, as necessary, for subsequent conveyance and use. End-user treatment, such as water softening for municipal, commercial, and industrial use, is anticipated.

    Conveyance of water across Kansas and eastern Colorado would be through single or parallel largediameter pipelines located more or less adjacent to I-70. Infrastructure would include a series of highcapacity pumping stations (to be located, sized, and designed). The water conveyance infrastructure (pipeline and pumping stations) would be owned and operated by the Kansas Water Office in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Kansas Division of Water Resources, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and various public and private stakeholders. The diversion rights would owned by a Kansas entity

    The Missouri River Reuse Project is technically feasible as evidenced by other large diversion projects in the western United States including, but not limited to: (a) the numerous transmountain diversion projects in Colorado that bring tens of thousands of acre-feet of Colorado River and Arkansas River water to the Front Range through numerous tunnels; (b) the Colorado River Aqueduct that brings water from the Colorado River at Parker Dam to Southern California; (c) the Los Angeles Aqueduct that brings water from Owens Valley to Los Angeles; (d) the Central Arizona (canal) Project that brings Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson, and (e) the State Water Project of California that provides irrigation water to farms in the San Joaquin Valley, and is a major source of supply for cities in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties and other parts of southern California. Many of these projects involve the Bureau of Reclamation, Corps of Engineers, and numerous state water resources agencies.

    A similar serious project has been proposed that would divert surface water from the Mississippi River and pump it west into the Colorado River Basin. Another large project has been proposed that would divert about 300,000 of acre-feet of surface water from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming, pump the water across southern Wyoming along I-80 to Cheyenne and then south into the Denver Basin. Moreover, private energy and pipeline companies have constructed thousands of miles of interstate pipelines that pump vast quantities of natural gas and petroleum products across the United States.

    Legal, engineering and construction costs need to be determined for numerous possible options. Construction costs will likely be in the billions of dollars and would be borne by the various end users — water providers and irrigators in Kansas and Colorado with some participation by the Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. Operating costs must be affordable for irrigators and municipal users for the project to be feasible. In exporting water out-of-state to Colorado, Kansas could charge and collect a reasonable severance tax, as well as the State Water Plan fee.

    The historic 2007 multi-state agreement among the seven Colorado River Basin States governing the future management of the Colorado River provides for the introduction and recovery of non-Colorado River system water and non-Colorado River system water exchanges. The Front Range of Colorado uses about 345,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year and releases that water into the South Platte River Basin, which is tributary to the Missouri River. According to the 2004 Colorado Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) report, the South Platte River Basin will need an additional 409,700 acre-feet of water by 2030 due largely to forecasted population increase. Bringing Missouri River reuse water to the Front Range provides an opportunity for Colorado to exchange all or a portion of this water for other water in the Colorado River Basin originating in the State of Colorado (such as from the Yampa, White, and Green Rivers) to the Lower Basin states. This exchange of water would engage the States of California, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico in helping to pay for the project. The federal government would also have a financial interest in the project because of the Colorado River treaty with Mexico.

    The Missouri River Reuse Project could have major interstate impacts on regional and local water supply. Congressional and state legislative approvals will likely be needed with an accompanying environmental impact statement under NEPA. A 404 permit will be needed from the Corps of Engineers including numerous state approvals. Water rights for the diversion will have to be obtained from the Kansas Department of Water Resources and will be held by a Kansas entity.

    Even though the water will be used in Kansas and Colorado, the reuse project will likely have profound and unprecedented positive impacts on the Colorado, Republican, and South Platte River compacts affecting Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, California, and the Colorado River treaty with Mexico. The reuse project could also positively impact the North Platte and Arkansas River compacts involving Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The State of Missouri will need solid assurance that the flows in the Missouri River will always be sufficient to support navigation and municipal water diversions in the state. A benefit to the states of Missouri and Kansas and Kansas City area water providers is the possible reduced risk of damage from flooding and river degradation.

    The project has numerous options that can be considered in terms of design, construction, operations, and costs. Each of these options needs to be fully explored, which will take time and money. The possible source(s) of funding need to be determined and evaluated. The project is large and will need to engage the cooperation (buy-in) and participation by numerous states and their respective water resources agencies and water providers, the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and various Missouri River stakeholders. Other federal agency cooperation will be needed from the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, US Department of Commerce, US Energy Department, US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Considerable risk and uncertainty exists when seeking approval and consensus from such a cadre of stakeholders.

    Historic flows in the Missouri River demonstrate that the river it a reliable source of supply for navigation, irrigation, and municipal supply. Flows vary annually and seasonally. The main stem of the Missouri River is managed by the Corps of Engineers pursuant to an annual operating plan that is focused on flood control, navigation, municipal water supply, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. The historic Missouri River flood of 2011 caused significant river-bottom degradation from Atchison, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri, breached numerous federal and private levees, and considerable damage to public and private property. A large diversion from the Missouri River would provide another means for the Corps of Engineers to control flooding of the Missouri River in the Kansas City reach. During periods of low flow, projected river diversions would be reduced or suspended. Subsequent water stored in reservoirs west of the diversion point could be released as needed to ensure adequate supplies of water for municipal use, such as along the Kansas River.

    The amount of electrical energy required for operations would be substantial and needs to be determined based on consideration of reasonable design alternatives. Power supply to the pumping stations would be provided by a combination of existing and expanded coal-fired power plants and wind energy as determined most appropriate and feasible by objective engineering and economic analyses.

    Additional water for Kansas and Colorado reservoirs will positively support reservoir recreation activities. The reuse project would likely have a positive affect on the riparian habitat of the lower South Platte River basin, particularly for whooping cranes and other waterfowl in northeast Colorado and southwest Nebraska. Potential impacts on endangered and protected fish and waterfowl along the Missouri River would need to be determined.

    Project alternative studies, engineering, design, construction, legal support, and operations would be a significant economic benefit to the States of Kansas and Colorado in terms of employment and population growth. A large diversion works, treatment plant, and pumping station would likely employ hundreds of skilled workers and engineers in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Pipeline and booster pumping stations would likewise employ hundreds of skilled workers across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Severance tax revenue for state of Kansas from the export of water to Colorado would also be significant. The economic benefit could be similar to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to the United States or nearly any of the aqueduct projects in California. The project could also yield substantial volumes of new water to the Lower Colorado River Basin states under the Colorado River Compact.

    More Missouri River Reuse Project coverage here.


    Junction City: The annual meeting of the Republican River Basin Compact Administration is October 16

    October 5, 2012

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    From the Associated Press via the Salina Journal:

    Officials from Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska meet later this month to discuss water-related issues and activities within the Republican River basin.

    The Republican River Compact Administration’s annual meeting is Oct. 16 in Junction City. Among the topics up for discussion is compliance with the compact. A work session is also planned Oct. 15.

    Both meetings are open to the public.

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


    NGWA Conference on Great Plains Aquifers: Beyond the Ogallala — October 25-26

    August 25, 2012

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    Here’s the link to their registration webpage.

    More groundwater coverage here.


    Republican River Compliance pipeline dedication August 16

    August 2, 2012

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    From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Yuma Pioneer :

    The Republican River Water Conservation District will be hosting the public dedication ceremony of the Compact Compliance Pipeline on Thursday, August 16, beginning at 7 p.m.

    The location of the ceremony will be at the outfall structure near Yuma County Road SS east of Laird.

    On July 14, 2011, during a quarterly meeting, the RRWCD Board voted to build the pipeline in an effort to assist Colorado in complying with the Republican River Compact. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 29, 2011, near the pipeline collection tank location.

    GEI Consultants, an engineering firm from Denver, has designed the pipeline, and Garney Construction, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, was selected as the general contractor. Construction of the pipeline started in early September 2011.

    Funding for the compact compliance pipeline has been provided through a loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and from water use fees paid by well owners throughout the Republican River Basin in Colorado.

    Speakers during the ceremony include: Congressman Cory Gardner, John Stulp, Special Advisor to Governor Hickenlooper on Water Issues, Dick Wolfe, State Engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Dennis Coryell, Chairman of the Republican River Water Conservation District.

    The ceremony will conclude with opening the main-line valve and delivering water into the North Fork of the Republican River.

    Everyone is welcome to attend. Transportation to the ceremony will be provided by the District. If you wish to attend the ceremony, please notify the District so ensure seating.

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


    Dust Bowl: ‘…greatest man-made ecological disaster in U.S. history’ — Ken Burns

    July 24, 2012

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    Click here to watch the trailer from Ken Burns new production The Dust Bowl, from the Huffington Post.

    More education coverage here.


    Republican River Water Conservation District meeting July 12

    July 7, 2012

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The Republican River Water Conservation District will hold its quarterly meeting on Thursday, July 12, at the Phillips County Events Center in Holyoke. It will begin at 10 a.m. and last until about 4 p.m. Public comment will be heard at 1 p.m. State Engineer Dick Wolfe will be giving an update on the State of Colorado’s efforts to obtain approval from the State of Kansas for the compact compliance pipeline. GEI Consultants, Inc. will provide an update on the pipeline construction project. The board will be discussing whether to exercise the option to lease a portion of the Laird Ditch water right owned by the Yuma County Water Authority, for 2013-15. There will be engineering and legal counsel updates. The 2011 audit report will be presented at the meeting.

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


    The Republican River compliance pipeline is slightly below budget

    April 22, 2012

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    Currently, the whole project, including the purchase of more than 50 wells, is on track to be completed for $67.4 million. The RRWCD is recouping a total of $1.6 million in lease payments, putting the net cost at $65.722 million. Willard noted that GEI Consultants estimated in November 2007 that the total cost would fall between $61.3 million and $71.3 million…

    Willard noted that the RRWCD’s goal is compact compliance and to protect agricultural production within the basin. He said his opinion is the district should be careful about taking any more land out of production; to keep this in mind when making future decisions.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River compliance pipeline tour recap: On schedule the project should be complete in mid-July

    March 25, 2012

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    More than 50 wells were purchased by the RRWCD, for approximately $49 million, from the Cure family in the hills about 12-14 miles north of Laird near the state line. Eight have been designated as primary wells, from which water will be pumped to the hilltop collection tank, from where the water will be sent down the pipeline through gravitational force to the outfall structure. Besides the eight primary wells, seven others have been designated as backup wells. Garney Construction submitted the winning bid of $13.54 million to construct the 12 mile pipeline, ending at the outfall structure on the North Fork of the Republican River less than one mile from the Colorado-Nebraska state line. Work is progressing as scheduled, with completion set for mid-July. It will be tested out later in the year.

    The pipeline will be used to make up any deficits from Colorado in regards to its obligations to the Republican River Compact, an agreement between Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas first enacted in 1942.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    The Bureau of Reclamation commits $413,000 for a study of the Republican River Basin

    March 22, 2012

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    Here’s and excerpt from the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Adam Fetcher/Dan DuBray):

    Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is providing $2.4 million in funding for comprehensive water studies in California, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oklahoma…

    Republican River Basin Study (Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska) Federal Funding: $413,000; Non-Federal Funding: $435,000

    The Republican River flows from its headwaters in Colorado into northwest Kansas, through southern Nebraska and back into north-central Kansas. It drains approximately 23,300 square miles of these three states and supplies water for municipalities, industries, surface and ground water irrigation, recreation and wildlife. The basin is subject to an interstate compact that was ratified in 1943. The three states have proposed a collaborative basin study that will cover the entire basin down to the Clay Center stream-gauging station in northeast Kansas. The study will identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that address the impacts of climate change on water resources in the basin.

    Thanks to the Lincoln Journal Star for the heads up.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    In recent years, irrigation in the Colorado portion of the basin has been curtailed to meet conditions of the 1943 Republican River interstate compact. Among other measures, Bonny Reservoir north of Burlington had to be drained to provide water to downstream states. The study will identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that address the impacts of climate change on water resources in the basin.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Twilight for Bonny Reservoir: The draining of the reservoir is nearly complete, thousands of fish die

    March 4, 2012

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    From 9News.com (Matt Flener):

    Since state officials started draining Bonny Lake’s water in the fall of 2011 because of the decision, thousands of fish have died at the reservoir. Last week, workers from the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which owns Bonny’s land in cooperation with the State of Colorado, had to unclog the drain from the dam using pitchforks, because so many fish had piled up. Backhoes then buried fish underneath the reservoir’s soil.

    Colorado State Engineer Dick Wolfe says the practice has taken place, sometimes every other day, to keep water flowing to Kansas. Wolfe says his department has worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to humanely bury the fish so they would not become a health hazard or a visual problem at the lake in the long term. Knowing they would drain the lake, last year state officials tried to get fishermen to catch as many fish as possible by taking away catch limits at Bonny.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    The Republican River Water Conservation District is offering a tour of the Republican River compliance pipeline project March 9

    February 26, 2012

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    From The Yuma Pioneer:

    The Republican River Water Conservation District is offering a tour of the pipeline project for the public on Friday, March 9, beginning at 1:30 pm at the District meeting room located at 410 Main Street in Wray. Due to safety concerns, there will be a limited number of participants allowed to attend the tour.

    Garney Construction will be installing 36 inch ductile-iron transmission pipe during the tour. Sessions Construction of Wray will be installing pvc pipe connecting the collection lines in the well field.

    Anyone interested in attending the tour must contact the District office at (970) 332-3552. The District is limiting the number of participants for the tour and will offer additional tour dates if there is enough interest expressed from the public. If you have any questions concerning the pipeline or the tour please contact the District office at 970-332-3552.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    A request to move water out of basin for the Republican River compliance pipeline will be in front of the Sandhills Ground Water Management District January 24

    January 20, 2012

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The hearing will be held Tuesday, January 24, at 10 a.m. at the Wauneta Fire Hall, located north of Wray, at 50002 U.S. Highway 385. The [Republican River Water Conservation District] is seeking to send water from the Sandhills district down a pipeline to the North Fork of the Republican River, where it will flow east into Nebraska and then into Kansas. It part of Colorado’s efforts to come into compliance with the 1942 Republican River Compact.

    More Republican River coverage here and here.


    Republican River Water Conservancy District board meeting October 13

    October 8, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    It will be held Thursday, October 13, at the Wray Ambulance Facility, 304 W. Third St., beginning at 10 a.m. Public comment is scheduled for 1 p.m.

    New terms will be appointed for the seats belonging to Kit Carson and Phillips counties, as well as the Marks Butte and Arikaree ground water management districts, followed by an election of officers and a review of committee assignments. The district’s Water Activity Enterprise budget for 2012 will be up for consideration and approval at the meeting…

    For more information regarding the meeting, please contact RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 332-3552, or email her at rrwcd@centurytel.net.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    State Engineer Dick Wolfe on draining Bonny Reservoir, ‘Draining Bonny Reservoir is a part of our efforts to bring Colorado into compliance with the 1942 Republican River Compact and the 2033 Final Settlement Stipulation’

    September 30, 2011

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    Here’s are answers to questions about draining Bonny from the State Engineer, from The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl). From the article:

    Q: Why weren’t other options considered?
    A: Many options were considered, and other steps have been taken to make up for the water shortfall to Kansas. Agencies have reluctantly concluded there are no viable legal or physical options available to bring us into compact compliance that will allow water to be stored in Bonny Reservoir and allow farmers and municipalities to continue pumping their wells…

    Q: Why can’t Kansas maintain Bonny Reservoir so water can be released when necessary to its irrigators?
    A: We explored many options with Kansas, including ones that would allow the reservoir to remain as a storage facility. Thus far, Kansas has not accepted any of these proposals.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Bonny Lake Fish Salvage Authorized

    September 24, 2011

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    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists have begun salvaging sport fish from Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County in preparation for the draining of the lake over the next two months.

    The State Engineer began releasing water from the reservoir on September 21 to satisfy a legal obligation to release all the water to Kansas and Nebraska. The result will most likely be the loss of the entire fishery.

    As long as conditions allow, biologists will trap as many fish as possible and relocate sport fish to other public fishing waters. Anglers can continue to remove fish provided the shoreline remains stable and access is safe.

    “Right now it looks like it might take as little as 90 days to drain the lake,” said Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick. “We encourage anglers to harvest as many fish as possible before the water is gone.”

    Under the salvage order signed by Southeast Regional Manager Dan Prenzlow, all legal methods of fishing will be allowed including the use of trotlines, jugs and seines. Commercial angling is prohibited. There are no limits on the number or species of fish anglers can keep, but everyone must have a valid Colorado fishing license to be in possession of fish and must complete an angler survey card available at the reservoir.

    Access may be closed to boats and/or anglers if the receding lake creates unstable banks or other hazards.

    “I grew up hunting and fishing at Bonny Lake State Park,” Prenzlow said. “This is difficult to watch.”

    Bonny Reservoir was created in 1951 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a flood control dam on the South Fork of the Republican River. Shortly after the completion of the project in 1951, the former Colorado Division of Game Fish and parks negotiated an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to manage fish, wildlife and recreational assets of the reservoir and the federal land around the lake.

    As a result of draining Bonny, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will transition Bonny from a State Park into a State Wildlife Area beginning Oct. 1, while simultaneously exploring other potential options with a variety of partners. Public hunting access areas will remain open to the public.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working with Yuma County Commissioners, Three Rivers Alliance, and Yuma County Economic Development Council to determine whether management of 56 acres, including the Visitor Center and Wagon Wheel Campground along with other facilities in Bonny Lake State Park, can be transitioned to Yuma County.

    Pending completion of discussions with these local groups, the North Cove and East Beach Campgrounds will remain open in October, although without potable water sources. The Foster Grove campground facilities, however, will be shut down and winterized until a final resolution is reached with Yuma County and local groups. Tables and grills will be removed from isolated picnic sites on the north and south side to be distributed to other Parks and Wildlife areas in critical need of such items.

    For more information on the South Republican State Wildlife Area, please see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/StateWildlifeAreas/.

    More coverage from KOAM TV:

    The eastern Colorado reservoir is being drained to send some 4 billion gallons of water to Nebraska and Kansas under a 1942 agreement among the three states. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Friday that it will take about two months to drain Bonny Lake.

    Colorado biologists say they’ll trap as many fish as possible and relocate sport fish to other public fishing waters. Anglers can continue to remove fish provided the shoreline remains stable and access is safe.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    State Engineer Dick Wolfe issues the order to drain Bonny Reservoir

    September 23, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    In a letter to Aaron Thompson, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation based in Grand Island, Nebraka, Wolfe ordered that the release begin as soon as practicable, and in an amount that is the maximum safe and practicable flow through Bonny Dam…

    While Colorado is building a pipeline to send water down the North Fork of the Republican River for compact compliance, Kansas has insisted it also meet the compact requirements along the South Fork, which flows from Bonny through the northwest corner of Kansas into Nebraska. The Republican River Water Conservation District has determined the only way Colorado can get into compliance on the South Fork is to drain Bonny Reservoir to eliminate the evaporation that counts against Colorado in computing compact allocations.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River basin: Kansas Gov’s letter to Coloradan leaves the State Engineer’s office wondering if he has been paying attention

    August 30, 2011

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    From the Lawrence Journal World (Scott Rothschild):

    In a recent letter to a Colorado resident, Brownback said the Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County, Colo., which abuts the border of northwest Kansas, is a valuable recreational area for many residents in surrounding communities. He added in the letter to Audrey Hase, who is trying to save the reservoir from being drained, “Because Colorado is a party to this compact, it is named in the lawsuit, but Kansas seeks no relief against Colorado at this time.”[...]

    Colorado State Engineer Dick [Wolfe] said Brownback was off base. “I’m not sure what the basis for that statement is,” [Wolfe] said Monday. “We do know that it is wrong,” he said.

    The release of water from Bonny Reservoir is necessary for Colorado to make up a water debt it owes Kansas and comply with the 2003 settlement of the 1942 Republican River Compact between Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, [Wolfe] said…

    Wolf said he spoke with Kansas water officials to make sure Brownback wasn’t signaling a change of plans. He said they told him the plan hasn’t changed.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River basin: It’s twilight for Bonny Reservoir after labor day

    August 27, 2011

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    From 9News.com (Matt Flener):

    Nebraska, and ultimately Kansas, are about to receive approximately 4 billion gallons of water from Colorado’s Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County, under a decades old agreement between the three states to share water. Bonny Reservoir, which sits on the south fork of the Republican River, holds the best potential to make up a water debt owed to Kansas under the 1942 Republican River Compact, Colorado officials say…

    In 2003, Kansas won a Supreme Court battle to force Nebraska and Colorado to make up for water they reserved from the river in violation of the compact. “We have spent four years looking for a better solution than draining Bonny,” Colorado Assistant Director for Water Alex Davis said. “It is really a tragedy that we have to take this step.

    Here’s a look at the South Fork of the Republican River from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

    The South Fork of the Republican River, which actually is more like a nice creek, still runs in places, but in others it mostly comes to a standstill thanks to a huge amount of cattails and silt. “They’re like one big sponge,” said Fred Raish, supervisor of the Yuma County Pest Control District.

    Raish is leading an effort to clean up the cattails and Russian-olives along the South Fork, east and west of Bonny Lake State Park. The hope is eradicating the cattails, which are extremely thick immediately west of the reservoir, will help break loose the water and get it flowing at a higher rate into Bonny and beyond into Kansas. Raish led the same effort on the North Fork in recent years, putting more than $350,000 toward eradication of Russian-olives, salt cedar, and now cattails, over the past four years.

    He noted that he grew up in a flood irrigation family in Montrose and La Plata counties with the idea that “if you’re not cleaning up your ditches, you’re not fully utilizing your water.”[...]

    “This is not a water project, it’s a restoration project,” Raish said as he drove the bumpy trails along the South Fork where a hired crew is eradicating the Russian-olives west of Bonny. “Water just happens to be a main part of the equation.” He explained that the idea is to restore the river banks to the native species, which in turn helps with the wildlife. There has been $300,000 in grant money put toward the efforts in recent years, along with funds donated by Colorado Corn, Republican River Water Conservation District and W-Y Well Testing, along with wildlife groups, some federal money, and state funds through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The current project entails cleaning up a two-mile stretch west of Highway 385, as well as a stretch on the east side of Bonny. The east side was cleaned up last year, and the native grasses already have returned where machinery left nothing but dirt a year before. Raish said Landsman Creek, which flows into the southwest corner of Bonny, also needs to be cleaned up to create a better flow. There have been some huge numbers thrown about in regards to how much it would cost to fully dredge and clean up the South Fork, some estimates have been put as high as $35 million.

    Here’s the link to a set of photos of the South Fork of the Republican River from The Yuma Pioneer.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Groundbreaking for the Republican River compliance pipeline is scheduled for August 29

    August 25, 2011

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    From the Holyoke Enterprise:

    The Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) will be holding the groundbreaking ceremony of the Compact Compliance Pipeline Monday, Aug. 29, beginning at 10 a.m. It will be held 12 miles north of Laird on County Road RR near the location of the future pipeline collection tank. Interested members of the public are invited…

    GEI Consultants, an engineering firm from Denver, has designed the pipeline and Garney Construction has been selected by the [Republican River Water Conservation District] to be the general contractor. Garney will start construction in mid-September and plans to complete the pipeline no later than mid-July, 2012…

    Speakers during the groundbreaking ceremony will be Congressman Cory Gardner; Dick Wolfe, State Engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources; Jennifer Gimbel, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy; and Dennis Coryell, chairman of the Republican River Water Conservation District.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River basin: The Yuma County Commissioners unanimously approve the Republican River Water Conservation District’s land use request for proposed compliance pipeline

    August 5, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The Yuma County Commissioners unanimously approved the RRWCD’s land use request to construct and operate the 12-mile pipeline system. The approval came last Friday, July 29, following a public hearing held during the commissioners’ regular meeting. Commissioners Dean Wingfield, Robin Wiley and Trent Bushner also approved a request for an exemption from subdivision in relation to the outflow structure and control building at the delivery point into the North Fork of the Republican River…

    Responding to a question regarding degradation of the groundwater level, RRWCD Board President Dennis Coryell explained that the wells purchased to provide water to the pipeline will be limited to the 10-year average historical consumptive use. He said the district also has a stipulation with the Sandhills Ground Water Management District, which must approve the exporting of the water, that not more than 2,000 acre feet will be pumped from any one well in a year. Coryell further explained that an agreement between Colorado and Nebraska calls for an annual minimum of 4,000 acre feet sent through the pipeline to the North Fork. He stressed that Colorado will send only what is needed up and above that minimum to meet compliance in a certain year with the Republican River Compact — which includes Kansas, along with Colorado and Nebraska…

    Pumping will take place during the irrigation offseason. Coryell said some will be sent in November, and then whatever is still needed to put Colorado into compliance will be sent downstream sometime between January through March.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River basin: Stan Murphy retires from the Republican River Water Conservancy District, Debra Daniel will take over

    July 6, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    Debra Daniel, from Burlington, was recently hired from a field of 43 applicants to replace Stan Murphy as the General Manager for the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD)…

    Daniel has an agricultural background which includes four years as the executive administrator of the Irrigation Research Foundation in Yuma, and five years as the district manager for the Plains and East Cheyenne Ground Water Management Districts in Kit Carson and Cheyenne counties.

    From The Holyoke Enterprise:

    During his [6.5 years] with the district, Murphy and his staff implemented various federal well retirement programs to convert irrigated land to dryland and permanently retire the wells to assist the State of Colorado to get into compliance. More than 30,000 irrigated acres have been enrolled in these programs to reduce consumptive use and increase stream flow for future compact benefit.

    Another project that Murphy has worked on is the $71 million Compact Compliance Pipeline to deliver ground water from a network of wells northeast of Wray to the North Fork tributary of the Republican River near the Colorado/Nebraska state line to help satisfy compact requirements. A general contractor for that pipeline project will be designated at the RRWCD Board meeting on July 14 in Holyoke, with plans to deliver water from that pipeline in fall 2012.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Yuma: No drinking water violations in more than ten years

    June 27, 2011

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    From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    Yuma tests for bacterial infections each month, while other items are tested once per year, and yet others every three years. The schedule stays that way unless a problem arises, then more frequent testing is done as steps are made to rectify the situation. “We’re in really good shape here in regards to our drinking water,” Strait said earlier this week…

    Yuma has not had a drinking water violation in well over 10 years. Yuma’s drinking water report did show that there was at least one water well close to the arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency changed the standard from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion several years ago. Eckley and Sterling are among the municipalities that have spent big dollars having to upgrade their water systems because they were out of compliance with the new standard. It also is why Yuma had to shut off its Fairgrounds Well — it consistently tested at 11-12 parts per billion. The Hansen Well at the south end of town comes close to the standard, but so far has stayed just below it at nine parts per billion.

    The city of Yuma purchased two new wells a few years ago from farmers on the edge of town, so the city’s water supply actually is more than it was before the Fairgrounds Well was shut off. The town could afford to shut off one more well, but would have to take more drastic and expensive measures if more wells tested above the standard…

    With this being an agricultural area, Yuma officials also closely watch for nitrate levels. However, that has not even been close to a problem. The latest round of tests showed Yuma’s wells in the range of 2.9 to 3.7 parts per million in nitrate, well below the health standard of 10 parts per million…

    Sanderson noted before the interview was done that the City of Yuma maintains 1 million gallons of water storage, two square miles or 33 linear miles of water pipe, 150-some fire hydrants and 200-some valves, all while utility customers enjoy a water rate that is 60 percent below the state average.

    More Republican River basin coverage here.


    The Colorado Division of Wildlife to recommend suspending fish limits at Bonny Reservoir

    April 24, 2011

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    At the request of the Department of Natural Resources I’ve taken down my Bonny Reservoir post from Friday. Here’s the corrected release. There was a “mixup” according to a department spokesperson. He said in email, “Don’t ask how it happened,” so I won’t. It’s actually kind of nice to know that they read Coyote Gulch at DNR.

    Here’s the new release:

    As Colorado prepares to drain Bonny Reservoir to help the state come into compliance with the Republican River Compact between Kansas and Nebraska, the Colorado Division of Wildlife will recommend lifting bag and possession limits on all sport fish caught at the southeastern Yuma County reservoir.

    The Colorado Wildlife Commission will be asked to approve removing bag and possession limits at its May meeting in Salida. A press release issued Friday incorrectly stated that relaxed bag limits would go into effect May 1.

    This fall, the State Engineer will begin to drain the reservoir to satisfy a legal obligation to release all the water to Kansas and Nebraska. The result will most likely be the loss of the entire fishery.

    “Right now it is unknown how long it will take to drain the lake, but it looks like this might be the last year for fishing at Bonny,” said DOW Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick. “The Division wants anglers to have an opportunity to harvest as many fish as possible before the water is gone.”

    At present, the water level at Bonny Reservoir is about 18 feet below normal, but the boat ramp at the State Park is still operational.

    Aquatic Biologist Gary Dowler said that recent sampling indicates that the overall number of sport fish is good, particularly for walleye and catfish. Numerous flathead catfish over 10 pounds were landed in 2010 and sampling efforts revealed a strong population of walleye with many fish over 20 inches.

    But Dowling said he expects fishing for larger wipers and white bass to be fair to poor because large wipers and bass were impacted by low water levels over the past few years.

    In addition to relaxing bag limits, the DOW will propose moving some of the sport fish to other reservoirs with public fishing.

    “We typically are able to move no more than 10 percent of the fish,” said Chick. “That is why we would like anglers to have an opportunity to try to catch as many as they can, too.”

    If the Commission approves the recommendation, recreational anglers will still need to have a valid Colorado fishing license, and must fill out a two-part form indicating the number and species of fish kept when they complete their fishing.

    Boating and shore access could be closed as a safety precaution in the event that unstable banks and muddy conditions create a danger to anglers.

    The reservoir will reach its lowest level when the water level drops to a point even with the outtake valve, which is expected to occur sometime in the fall or winter.

    “We won’t know the final depth of the reservoir until that happens, but it doesn’t look like the boat ramps will ever be usable again past 2011,” Chick said.

    Bonny Reservoir was created in 1951 when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built a flood control dam on the South Fork of the Republican River.

    Recreation on the reservoir, and the land on the east end of the lake, is managed by Colorado State Parks. The DOW manages the recreational use on the lands adjacent to the park and below the dam as the South Republican State Wildlife Area.

    Please contact Colorado State Parks website for hours of operation, current boat launching conditions as well as camping information http://parks.state.co.us/.

    For more information on the South Republican State Wildlife Area go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/StateWildlifeAreas/.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River basin: The U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for Kansas to get Nebraska back in court

    April 5, 2011

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    From the Associated Press via the Lawrence Journal World:

    The high court gave Kansas permission to file a new petition over its allegations that Nebraska took more than its share of water in 2005 and 2006 — enough to supply a city of 100,000 people for a decade. Kansas sued Nebraska over the Republican River in 1998. The two states settled the case five years later, but Kansas contends Nebraska violated the terms of the agreement. Now Kansas wants to force Nebraska to reduce farm irrigation in its portion of the nearly 25,000-square-mile river basin and to pay Kansas back for the economic gains Nebraska allegedly saw for using too much water. Kansas previously calculated the amount of the potential payment at $72 million…

    If Kansas prevails, Nebraska will be forced to stop irrigating about 500,000 of the 1.2 million acres in its portion of the Republican River basin, and farmers there would have to rely on rain to grow crops. Nebraska officials have acknowledged some overuse of Republican River water but questioned Kansas’ accounting, and they’ve noted that Nebraska has been in compliance with the settlement since 2006…

    Lawsuits among states over water are filed directly with the Supreme Court, but it typically appoints a special master to review evidence and make recommendations to the justices. To hear Kansas’ latest petition, the Supreme Court appointed William J. Kayatta Jr., an attorney from Portland, Maine. Use of the Republican River’s water is governed by a 1943 compact between Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado was given 11 percent of the water, while Nebraska was allotted 49 percent and Kansas, 40 percent.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Twilight for Bonny Reservoir?

    February 20, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The state agencies will hold the meeting at the Burlington Community and Education Center, located at 340 S. 14th Street, on March 7 at 6 p.m. Future management of Bonny will also be discussed at a joint meeting of the Colorado State Parks Board and the Colorado Wildlife Commission on March 10 in Denver at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Hunter Education Building at 6060 Broadway in Denver.

    Over the past several years, the amount of water available for storage in Bonny has decreased significantly. At the same time, Republican River compact obligations and other pressures require Colorado to reconsider recreation and reservoir management. Based on current and expected conditions, state officials anticipate that Bonny will shift from an actively managed flat water reservoir to a more passively managed State Wildlife Area with a much smaller or non-existent reservoir.

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


    Burlington: 23rd annual Central Plains Irrigation Conference and Equipment Exposition in Feb. 22-23

    February 16, 2011

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    From the Holyoke Enterprise:

    All events will be held at the Burlington Community Center at 340 S. 14th St…

    Speaking at the general session on Tuesday is Craig Beyrouty, Colorado State University. He will cover “The Future of Global Food Supplies.” On Wednesday, Dick Wolfe, Colorado Division of Water Resources, will talk about “Water Issues in Colorado.”

    Technical sessions topics are “Limited/Deficit Irrigation,” “Irrigation Scheduling,” “Subsurface Drip Irrigation,” “Irrigation System and Pumping Plant Maintenance,” “Center Pivot Sprinkler Automation” and “Energy Crops for Irrigation.”

    The trade show will be open at various times throughout both days. It will close at 10:30 p.m. on the second day. It is open to the general public and there is no admission charge for it.


    Republican River Basin: The Upper Republican Natural Resources District approves pipeline to keep farmers irrigating

    February 8, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The irrigator-funded acre retirement and pipeline project approved Tuesday night will be the largest of its kind in the state and has the potential to help keep farmers throughout Nebraska’s Republican River Basin, where 1.2 million acres are irrigated, from being shutdown to stay in compliance with the Republican River Compact that divides water use between Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas. Complying with the compact has been a source of conflict that is expected to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The project greatly reduces chances that producers who farm close to the Republican and its tributaries in the Upper Republican will have to be shutdown during dry times to help increase stream flow so the district doesn’t exceed its allotted amount of allowable stream flow depletions caused by groundwater irrigation. “This project is a cost-effective way to stay in compliance with the compact while protecting our water resources and keeping farmers in the basin in business,” said Jasper Fanning, Ph.d., general manager of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District. “It doesn’t negate the need for reduced water use to stay in compliance and the district, as it has for 30 years, will continue to be at the regulatory forefront of groundwater management.”

    The district’s Board of Directors on Tuesday night unanimously approved the purchase of nearly 3,300 irrigated acres with 24 center-pivot systems located just north of Rock Creek State Fish Hatchery, which is seven miles north of Parks in Dundy County, at a cost of $10 million. A portion, not all, of the water that historically has been used to irrigate the land will instead be piped into nearby Rock Creek, which flows into the Republican River near Parks. The water will be piped only when needed, during dry times, to stay in compliance with the compact. The land is expected to eventually return to natural vegetation. It is hoped that the pipeline will be in place in 2012. The project may only need to be used every three or four years, at the most. History suggests that during the driest of years, the district may need an additional 10,000 acre feet of water to stay in compliance with the compact. The proposed project has the potential to supply roughly that amount of water, and more water could be provided in the future granted the district retires more acres.

    The Upper Republican NRD worked cooperatively with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to analyze the feasibility and benefits of the project. “We believe this project has the potential to significantly aid efforts to stay in compliance with the Republican River Compact and the local integrated management plan,” said Brian Dunnigan, director of DNR. “This is the type of initiative needed to help farmers throughout the Republican River Basin.”

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Colorado Ag Preservation Society meeting February 3

    January 27, 2011

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    From The Holyoke Enterprise:

    The Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association (CAPA) will be hosting its annual meeting with featured speakers including the Colorado state engineer Dick Wolfe, first assistant attorney general Peter Ampe, assistant director for water of the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Alex Davis and president of the RRWCD Dennis Coryell. They will explain the results of arbitration, what that means for North and South Fork users of the basin, what future plans are for compact compliance and the future of the compact compliance pipeline. The meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Burlington at the Boy Scout building.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Republican River Water Conservation District board meeting January 11

    January 6, 2011

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    It will be held Thursday, January 13, at the Burlington Community and Education Center, 340 South 14th. The meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with public comment at 1 p.m.

    The board recently approved moving forward with the proposed compact compliance pipeline, during a special meeting in Yuma last month. It will review the pipeline schedule at the January 13 meeting, as well as hear a presentation by GEI Consultants, Inc., which is doing the pipeline for the district.

    Board members will consider a potential legislative trip to Washington, D.C. They also will review and approve a notice for the position of general manager, as Stan Murphy will be retiring this year. They also will consider actions to prevent diversions by water rights that have been abandoned, look at committee assignments, receive reports on meetings and programs, and designate public places for posting notices of RRWCD meetings.

    More Republican River Basin coverage here.


    Republican River Water Conservation District board special meeting December 16

    December 10, 2010

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The future of the proposed compact compliance pipeline could be hanging in the balance when the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors holds a special meeting in Yuma next Thursday, December 16. It is a fairly short meeting for the RRWCD Board as it is set to last only two hours, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Public comment will be heard at 2:15 p.m.

    The meeting will be held at Quintech, 529 N. Albany St. The agenda consists of “consideration of whether to proceed with the Compact Compliance Pipeline to comply with the amendment to the CWCB loan contract and to ensure the availability of loan funds.”

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


    Yuma: Water rates going up in January

    November 13, 2010

    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The Yuma City Council gave final approval to an increased water rate at its regular meeting, last week, November 2. The basic rate for the first 5,000 gallons is increasing from $8 per month to $8.50. The charge for each additional 1,000 gallons is going up from 85 cents to $1.25. The higher rates will go into effect in January, which means city customers will not see it reflected on their bills until the one that is due in early March…

    Even with the increase, Yuma’s water rates still are half the average of the other northeast Colorado municipalities. The new revenue is expected to be about $77,000 annually. City Manager Doug Sanderson was questioned by City Attorney Roger Seedorf during the public hearing held prior to the council’s vote. Sanderson explained the Water Enterprise Fund currently is breaking even, and the new revenue will allow for reserves to be built to go toward future projects. Those projects include helping purchase a new SCADA system (a combined project with the Sewer Department), along with replacing old water lines, valves and such, purchasing water rights through the Yuma County Water Authority, and painting the inside of the water towers.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Republican River Water Conservation District board meeting recap

    October 25, 2010

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    The fate of Bonny, located in extreme southeastern Yuma County between Idalia and Burlington, was a topic of conversation during the Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors meeting, last Thursday, October 14, in Wray. The fate of Colorado’s proposed compact compliance pipeline also was a conversation piece. Arbitrator Martha Pagel presented her findings October 7, from the pipeline trial held in Kansas City…

    The board elected to hold off on making any decision until January’s quarterly meeting in regards to whether or not to move forward with the pipeline. There is hope Colorado and Kansas can continue to negotiate following Pagel’s ruling, and reach an agreement in which Kansas will approve the pipeline plan. The crediting issue is a key sticking point as Colorado had hoped to get 100 percent credit for all the pipeline water sent down the North Fork of the Republican River. Kansas had argued Colorado should receive 80 to 90 percent credit due to the negative impact of pumping water from the underground aquifer to feed the pipeline. The arbitrator had suggested the two states find a middle ground.

    As for Bonny, its fate seems sealed after Pagel upheld Kansas’ point that the pipeline to the North Fork cannot make up for Colorado’s shortages on the South Fork. “Until Bonny Reservoir is drained, Colorado will not meet this test,” RRWCD engineer Jim Slattery told the board during its meeting last week, referring to the South Fork Sub-basin Impairment Test. The surface water at Bonny works against Colorado in regards to its allocation on the South Fork. When asked later in the meeting, Slattery said draining Bonny should solve the South Fork issue forever. If so, that would leave little left for Kansas to object to in regards to the pipeline. Attorney David Robbins asked Pete Ampe of the Attorney General’s Office if the arbitrator’s ruling forced a decision on Bonny. Ampe said it does, and the Department of Natural Resources was talking to the federal Department of the Interior about that issue. The RRWCD has been pushing for the draining of Bonny the past few years. Robbins noted that Pagel’s ruling actually helps with getting that done.

    More Republican River basin coverage here.


    Republican River Basin: Arbitrator urges Colorado to accept Kansas’ proposals for compliance pipeline

    October 8, 2010

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    Update: Here’s the reaction from State Attorney General John Suthers via a report from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

    “We’re obviously disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision.” Suthers said. “However, it is important to note that the arbitrator recognized Colorado’s fundamental right to proceed with a pipeline to assist in compact compliance, that the proposal provides a reasonable and necessary approach by Colorado, and that Kansas does not have an unfettered ability to block the project. Most of the arbitrator’s decision focused on additional details that she felt should have been included in the proposal. Colorado will continue to work to assure that we comply with the Republican River Compact while protecting the livelihoods and jobs of those living in the basin. I remain optimistic that Colorado and Kansas can reach an agreement on this pipeline to assure this happens.”

    Update: More coverage from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

    Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska — the three states involved in the Republican River Compact — now have until November 1 to give notice on whether or they accept the decision. If any reject the decision — and it likely would be Colorado if any of them do — it would enter the appelate court system. Pagel’s decision is non-binding, but it likely sets the tone for any further legal wrangling concerning the pipeline. While Pagel sided with Kansas on nearly every disputed fact brought forth in the arbitration hearing held in July, her final decision made it clear Colorado’s plan to use a pipeline as an augmentation source was reasonable, and she outlined how the sides could come to a reasonable compromise to get the plan approved by all three states through the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA)…

    Another key issue is if Colorado can replace overuse on the South Fork with water delivered to the North Fork. Pagel again recommended a compromise. She agreed the water from the pipeline can go toward determing Colorado’s overall compliance. However, she agreed with Kansas that Colorado still needs to meet the South Fork sub-basin test. She said the arguments presented by Kansas are not unreasonable. The concern is Colorado, over time, will “over-deliver” pipeline water into the North Fork sub-basin in order to build a surplus. That in turn would be a disincentive for Colorado to implement separate compliance measures in the South Fork sub-basin. Pagel concluded there is nothing currently in the pipeline proposal that would stop Colorado from doing so. She suggested the proposal be clarified to limit the amount of augmentation credit applied to the North Fork, and should not allow for overuse on the South Fork until Colorado comes into compliance in that sub-basin…

    Pagel finally ruled in favor of Colorado in regards to changes to the accounting procedures with a pipeline in place. She noted the changes were included in the revised resolution in August 2009, and Kansas never identified specific further changes, so its objection lacks merit. Pagel did note that the accounting procedures need to be reviewed in any final agreement to assure consistency…

    In the end, Pagel ruled that in general Colorado’s plan is reasonable and a necessary approach to meet compact compliance. She also ruled Kansas has not been unreasonable up to this point in regards to its objections to Colorado pipeline plan, meaning Colorado is not entitled to a recommendation from her that the pipeline proposal should be approved. However, she noted that it should be approved with the changes she recommended, and if Kansas continues to object at that point, it may suggest there is nothing Colorado can do to get Kansas’ approval.

    From The Topeka Capitol-Journal:

    …the arbitrator [Martha Pagel] urged Colorado to adopt most of Kansas’ proposals regarding construction of a “compliance pipeline” that would offset the effects of groundwater depletion on streamflows that affect the amount of water available downstream in Kansas.

    Kansas officials, while encouraged that Colorado is exploring ways to meets its legal obligations under the compact, note that the states have yet to agree on details of the plan…

    More information about the Republican River Compact, including the arbitrator’s decisions, is available on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website at www.ksda.gov/interstate_water_issues/content/142.

    More Republican River basin coverage here and here.


    Yuma: Water rates going up

    October 6, 2010

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    From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

    Following a long discussion, the Yuma City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance setting a new water rate. In keeping with councilmen’s wishes (led by Dan Baucke) to minimize the impact on those on fixed income, the basic rate is being increased only 50 cents, to $8.50 per month for up to 5,000 gallons. The charge for each additional 1,000 gallons per month is going up from 85 cents to $1.25…

    Several potential projects are driving rate increase, including a new SCADA system, which controls the water and sewer systems, replacing aging water lines and fire hydrants, and improvements to the water wells and towers, among other potential projects. The extra revenue, which is expected to be about $77,000 annually, will provide reserves for those projects, according to the city, as well as paying about $24,000 from the Water Enterprise to the Electric Enterprise for the electricity used to pump the wells. Even with the increase, the city’s water rates still will be half the average of other northeast Colorado communities.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal

    August 30, 2010

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    Say hello to the Republican River Basin Water and Drought Portal. From the front page:

    Water resources in the Republican River Basin are vital to the sustainability of the life that surrounds them. Not only is it important to the well being of people but it’s also necessary for crop production, animal life, and the hydrological cycle. This portal was created to provide comprehensive information on emerging and ongoing water and drought issues for anyone that has an interest in the Republican River Basin. It will give stakeholders the planning information and tools needed to develop sustainable water strategies as well as information to better prepare for and respond to water shortage and drought.

    Thanks to Fox 31 News for the link.

    More from the McCook Daily Gazette. From the article:

    The river has been a vital lifeline since prehistoric times, providing precious water to a parched prairie since before the region’s earliest European explorers named it in reference to the Kit-ke-hak-i, or Republican Pawnees…

    A new website won’t solve the all problems, but should prove to be a valuable resource as the process continues. Created by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, hosted by the Upper Republican Natural Resources District and created with the help of the Lower, Middle and Tri-Basin Natural Resources Districts, the site is at http://www.rrdp.org

    More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


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