Haxtun: Republican River Water Conservation District board meeting July 9

July 5, 2015

Shirley Hotel Haxtun, Colorado via History Colorado

Shirley Hotel Haxtun, Colorado via History Colorado


From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The Republican River Water Conservation District Board of Directors will hold its regular quarterly meeting Thursday, July 9, at the Haxtun Community Center, 125 E. Wilson St.

Among the items on the agenda is approving the purchase of surface water rights with Bonny Company Trust. The board also is supposed to receive a report from Mike Sullivan and Scott Steinbrecher from the State of Colorado concerning negotiations with Kansas regarding the Compact Compliance Pipeline and Bonny arbitrations. Some portion of that report might take place in executive session due to possible negotiation and litigation strategy considerations.

District engineer Jim Slattery will make a presentation regarding the pipeline operations in 2015, and a pipeline update will be given.

The 2014 audit report is up for approval, and the board also is scheduled to approve an engagement letter for the 2015 audit.

The meeting is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Public comment will be heard by the board beginning at 1 p.m.

If needing more information, please contact Deb Daniel, the RRWCD’s general manager, at 332-3552 or 630-3525, or email her at deb.daniel@rrwcd.com. The district’s website is http://www.republicanriver.com.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Water Conservation District quarterly meeting recap

April 17, 2015
Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District

From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The RRWCD, which operates the pipeline for the state’s compliance efforts with the 1942 compact, sent approximately 7,000 acre feet into the North Fork of the Republican River in 2014.

That was part of an initial one-year agreement between Colorado and Kansas to operate the pipeline on a trial basis. The two states, along with Nebraska (the three comprise the Republican River Compact Administration), agreed to operate the pipeline again this year on another one-year agreement.

Nebraska also has two augmentation projects to meet its compact obligations. Read more about them in the accompanying article.

RRWCD completed the 2014 delivery through the pipeline over the last two months of 2014, and continued pumping another 4,000 acre feet by March 31 to begin meeting this year’s obligation.

However, the pipeline, located at the far east end of Yuma County, continues to pump water into the North Fork.

A total of 7,000 AF currently is being sent into the North Fork of the Republican River. RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel told the Pioneer earlier this week the pipeline should meet the 7,000-AF benchmark by the end of this week. It then will be shut down until October 1, at which time pumping will resume with a target of an additional 6,000 AF delivered by the end of 2015.

Slattery has calculated Colorado is going to have to come close to pumping the full 13,000 acre feet allowed from the eight wells currently in use for the pipeline.

That is nearly double what Colorado sent into the North Fork in 2014.

Board members voiced concerns to Slattery that Colorado already is nearing its maximum pumping capacity in only the second year of the pipeline’s operation.

Ironically, it is because much of Colorado’s Republican River Basin received a welcome-amount of precipitation last summer.

Board member Brent Deterding said people are in awe so much more will be pumped this year after having more rain last year. Felloq board member Tim Pautler told Slattery last week the board needs to be equipped with an understanable explanation the members can share with the public.

Slattery explained a wet year hurts Colorado when the water does not reach the downstream gauges for the South Fork in Benkelman, Nebraska.

A wet year helps when there is so much rain that water reaches the gauges, which gives Colorado credit in compact compliance.

That was not the case in 2014. The region received healthy rain, but none of it reached the gauges, meaning Colorado did not share the extra water with its downstream partners, Slattery explained.

One of the key issues when Kansas first brought suit against Nebraska, and then Colorado, in the late 1990s and early 2000s for not meeting compact compliance, was the role played by high-capacity wells mining the underground Ogallala Aquifer.

A Supreme Court special master sided with Kansas in the early 2000s that the increased pumping since expansion of irrigation farming had impacted stream flows.

That ruling put all high-capacity wells in Colorado’s Republican River Basin in danger of being shutdown. The RRWCD was formed by state legislation in 2004, charged with finding ways to get Colorado into compliance without the forced shutdown of wells.

It eventually led to the construction of the compact compliance pipeline, which sat unused for a couple of years until Kansas finally agreed to the first one-year trail for 2014.

And so, back to the wet year resulting in Colorado having to pump more into the North Fork — the heavier rains meant more water in Colorado that was not shared downstream, the concept being it did not make it there because underground pumping has depleted the aquifer enough that the water soaks into the ground instead of making it downstream.

Therefore, Colorado has a bigger deficit to make up.

While 13,000 AF certainly is much more than Colorado expected it would have to be pumping so early in the pipeline’s use, wells within the Colorado Republican River Basin annually pump 700,000 AF out of the aquifer. Slattery noted it does not come free, as Colorado has to repay 13,000 AF — which equals 1.85 percent of the 700,000 AF pumped annually.

Slattery also warned the board that eventually Colorado is going to have to deliver up to 25,000 AF annually through the pipeline. There are eight wells being used now, and eventually seven more will have to come online. Slattery said the district will need to keep buying water rights for the pipeline.

Board members softened their remarks to Slattery by the end of the presentation.

“It just makes us nervous when we’re within 1,000 acre feet of the maximum in the second year,” Board President Dennis Coryell said.

“Basically, you’re just telling us what we don’t want to know,” Deterding added.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Water forum targets pumping in Colorado — Salina Journal

April 4, 2015
Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District

From the Salina Journal (Tim Unruth):

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and a few water-conscious underlings plan to discuss with locals Tuesday in St. Francis how water is being used in a three-state region.

Water from the Ogallala Aquifer, the huge underground driver of farm economies in portions of several states, is being mined to satisfy federal streamflow requirements on the Republican River.

Rep. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, wonders about the wisdom of taking a resource that developed over centuries to enhance a river, losing some of the resource to seepage and evaporation.

“It makes no sense,” he said. “Here we are, trying to get a new vision out to preserve water for 50 years, and we have Colorado across the line, pumping from the Ogallala to replace surface water.”

The meeting will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Cheyenne County 4-H Building in St. Francis.

Billinger aims to gather input on the pumping project and “possible ways to preserve the Ogallala for future users.”

Two similar augmentation projects just ceased in two areas of western Nebraska.

The Republican River Water Conservation District in northeast Colorado is pumping from eight irrigation wells into a pipeline that dumps into the north fork of the Republican. The district delivers 7,000 acre feet of water to the river from November through December, and from January through mid-April will pump another 7,000 acre-feet, said Deb Daniel, manager of the district based in Wray, Colo…

“The only way we can supply enough water to be in compact compliance is by delivering water to the stream,” she said.

Another effort to comply consisted of draining Bonny Reservoir northeast of Burlington during 2011 and 2012. It was the only lake in the region.

Evaporation and seepage from the lake were working against Colorado’s compliance, Daniel said…

Rep. Billinger argues that the pumping project benefits the north fork of the Republican, which doesn’t enter Kansas until it reaches Jewell County, in the north-central part of the state. The south fork dips into Kansas through Cheyenne County and flows back into Nebraska.

Among Billinger’s options is to influence Colorado to stop pumping water from the Ogallala to replace surface water.

Hoping for long-term solutions

The Kansas lawmaker also would advocate for Colorado putting water back in Bonny Reservoir, earmarking storage for Kansas, and enhancing the region’s fishing and other recreation opportunities.

Given the demands for compliance, Colorado’s Daniel said the district “didn’t have any choice.”[…]

Representatives from Daniel’s district are planning to attend the Tuesday meeting in St. Francis. NRD officials from Nebraska also are interested in what’s said at the meeting, Jenkins said, and some may attend.

Accompanying Brownback will be Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey, Chief Water Engineer David Barfield and Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter.

Meanwhile the Republican River Water Conservation District board meeting is next Thursday. From the Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

Yuma will be the site for the Republican River Water Conservation Board of Directors regular quarterly meeting, Thursday, April 9.

It will be held in the banquet room at Quintech, 529 N. Albany St. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Public comment will be heard at 1 p.m.

A discussion regarding negotiations with the Jim Hutton Educational Foundation is on the agenda. The board will discuss possible financial support to the Water Preservation Partnership, as well as membership in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, along with other matters.

Pipeline operator Tracy Travis will give a report, and the board will hear reports on other recent meetings and programs. The board holds out the right to have an executive session if necessary.

For further information, please contact RRWCD General Manager Deb Daniel at 332-3552, or on her cell phone at 630-3525, or email her at deb.daniel@rrwcd.com.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.


Republican River Basin: Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado continue cooperation with water agreement — McCook Gazette

March 11, 2015
South Fork of the Republican River

South Fork of the Republican River

From the Republican River Compact Administration via the McCook Gazette:

Today, reflecting the continued spirit of cooperation, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, have reached an agreement that will ensure more certainty to the basin’s water users in both Nebraska and Kansas. The agreement, signed through the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA), was achieved through collaborative negotiations that began in January 2015 and will provide timely access to water for the 2015 irrigation season.

The agreement provides additional flexibility for Nebraska to achieve its Compact obligations while ensuring Kansas water users’ interests are also protected. The additional flexibility allowed the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to open Nebraska reservoirs and water user’s rights that were initially limited in 2015. Opening the Nebraska water rights allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to agree to modify certain contract provisions for its irrigation districts, ensuring the availability of the water that was pumped from Nebraska augmentation projects for Compact compliance.

Additionally, the agreement allows for the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to ensure no additional regulatory water supply reductions for Nebraska surface water irrigation user’s water supplies for the 2015 irrigation season.

Current RRCA Chairman Jim Schneider, Acting Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, said, “This is a significant step forward for the states and our water users. Our collaborative work and this agreement further demonstrate the benefits of the recent cooperation that the states have been able to achieve. I am optimistic that the states and Bureau of Reclamation can work toward ensuring these types of arrangements can be in place each year so that both Nebraska and Kansas water users will secure the benefits of having more certainty in their water supplies.”

Kansas Commissioner David Barfield said, “Today’s agreement continues to move us forward toward a longer-term solution benefiting the basin’s water users. I appreciate not only Nebraska’s continued willingness to work through these issues, but also the Bureau of Reclamation and its irrigation districts for their part in reaching today’s agreement.”

Colorado Commissioner Dick Wolfe said, “These recent agreements are emblematic of the new cooperation among the states and the federal government. I hope it continues to be a model for cooperation and successful settlement of the remaining issues within the basin.”

At the Nov. 19, 2014, meeting in Manhattan, Kansas, the states reached an agreement that provided Nebraska with 100% credit for water delivered from augmentation projects to Harlan County Lake prior to June 1, 2015, and dedicated that water to be used exclusively by Kansas irrigators.

The RRCA is comprised of one member each from the States of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. The purpose of the RRCA is to administer the Republican River Compact. This Compact allocates the waters of the Republican River among the three states. The next RRCA meeting is scheduled for August to be hosted in Lincoln, Nebraska.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River agreement increases some water supplies for irrigation — the Scottsbluff Star-Herald

March 8, 2015

Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District


From the Scottsbluff Star-Herald (Lori Potter):

Some surface water irrigators in Nebraska’s part of the Republican Basin will get more water for their 2015 crops than originally expected as a result of an agreement signed Friday through the Republican River Compact Administration…

A key part of the agreement allows water to be released from Nebraska reservoirs earlier than planned for irrigation, even if that means being out of compact compliance.

Acting Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Schneider said Nebraska will be allowed to make up the difference in fall 2015 or spring 2016 with surface water administration and/or water from two natural resources district projects that pump groundwater into tributaries to enhance Republican River flows into Kansas.

Schneider said that before the agreement, Nebraska officials were being very conservative in water administration to ensure 2015 compact compliance, with water likely held in reservoirs until late summer.
Nebraska water rights for irrigation were opened in July 2014, which was too late for farmers to make crop plans based on having water. “It (2015) probably would have looked a lot like that,” Schneider said.

For the 22,455 acres of the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District downstream of Harlan County Lake, primarily in Franklin, Webster and Nuckolls counties, that meant a water supply equivalent to about 2.5 inches of water per acre.

District Manager Mike Delka of Red Cloud told the Hub that Friday’s agreement will increase that to 5 inches per acre.

Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District Manager Brad Edgerton said the main effect in his district will be downstream of Swanson Reservoir, where 20,000 acres from Trenton to the Indianola area along the Meeker-Driftwood Canal will get a boost from 1.5 inches per acre to 6 inches.

“This won’t be a full supply,” Schneider said, “but it will be the difference between being worth it to (irrigate) or not to take any water at all.”

For the irrigators, an earlier agreement would have been better. “The big advantage is knowing what you’re doing going into a crop year, so we would have liked to have known sooner,” Edgerton said.

Schneider said the incentive for Kansas officials to sign the agreement is that Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District irrigators have a certain 2015 water supply for 9 inches per acre.

Delka said Nebraska Bostwick and Frenchman-Cambridge officials started looking at options when it was clear 2015 would be another “compact call” year, with water to fill the irrigation districts’ needs being held in the reservoirs.

Delka said he, Edgerton and Kansas Bostwick Manager Kenny Nelson met with Bureau of Reclamation officials at a January meeting in Colorado.

“We said this is a third year of a compact call. This is just going to continue forever. We can’t afford that,” Delka said.

Work then began to identify how much water was needed to put Nebraska into compact compliance so the compact call could be lifted.

DNR officials had said an additional 19,000 a-f were needed for Kansas, Delka said, so irrigation district officials thought that had been achieved in a settlement giving Nebraska full credit for 20,000 a-f of Republican Basin water imported from the Platte Basin in 2014 and 2015.

He said DNR then kept increasing the amount required for state officials to agree to lift the compact call and release the water stored in the reservoirs. The other two key components for Friday’s agreement were approval by the Nebraska and Kansas Bostwick districts and by the Republican River Compact Commission.

Delka said the final agreement requires 31,700 a-f of water for Kansas before Nebraska Bostwick gets irrigation water. He said that’s the difference between 10 inches per acre and the 5 inches Nebraska Bostwick irrigators will get.

“We sacrificed, basically, half of our water supply for this,” Delka said. “The only way we could get water is to agree to this, which is wrong.”

Edgerton also said the agreement hinged on Nebraska Bostwick agreeing to those terms.
Delka said Nebraska Bostwick officials will issue a press release early next week explaining further why they don’t like the agreement, but approved it.

“This is one of the few times a public entity like us did something for the benefit of others,” he told the Hub.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Republican River Basin: Supreme Court finds Nebraska liable for ‘reckless’ water use — The Kansas City Kansan

February 25, 2015
Republican River Basin by District

Republican River Basin by District

From the Kansas City Kansan:

In a 28-page majority opinion, the court unanimous agreed that Nebraska “knowingly” violated the Republican River Compact and took water that belonged to Kansas.

As a remedy, the Supreme Court ordered by a 6-3 vote that Nebraska not only must pay Kansas’ actual damages from loss of water during those two dry years but also must “disgorge” a portion of the economic gain Nebraska received from higher yields from irrigating crops with water that should have been sent downstream to Kansas.

“Nebraska recklessly gambled with Kansas’s rights, consciously disregarding a substantial probability that its actions would deprive Kansas of the water to which it was entitled,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court’s majority. “That is nearly a recipe for breach [of the Compact that governs sharing of Republican River water]—for an upstream State to refuse to deliver to its downstream neighbor the water to which the latter is entitled. And through 2006, Nebraska took full advantage of its favorable position, eschewing steps that would effectively control groundwater pumping and thus exceeding its allotment. In such circumstances, a disgorgement award appropriately reminds Nebraska of its legal obligations, deters future violations, and promotes the Compact’s successful administration.

”Schmidt noted that the Supreme Court never before had ordered disgorgement of an upstream state’s unjust gains as a remedy in an interstate water dispute.

“Legally, this is a groundbreaking case that vindicates Kansas’s rights as a downstream state,” Schmidt said. “We brought this lawsuit to encourage our neighbors to live up to their obligations in future dry periods. I’m hopeful this strong and clear Supreme Court order will have that effect.”

The Supreme Court ordered Nebraska to repay Kansas $3.7 million to compensate for Kansas’s actual economic losses during 2005-06 and another $1.8 million as partial disgorgement of Nebraska’s unjust gains from illegally using Kansas water.

That $5.5 million recovery will be used to fully reimburse the attorney general’s office for its roughly $4.5 million in bringing the lawsuit and defending Kansas water rights, making the State of Kansas whole for its cost of litigation. The remainder will be available to the legislature to designate for other purposes as provided by law.

The Supreme Court also ordered technical changes to the calculation of future water flows from the Platte River basin into the Republican River basin as requested by Nebraska. The decision to order that reformation of the accounting procedure was 5-4.

More Republican River Basin coverage here.


Kansas to host Central Plains Irrigation Conference February 17-18 — Rural Radio

January 23, 2015

From the Kansas State Research and Extension via KTIC:

The 2015 Central Plains Irrigation Conference and Exposition will take place Feb. 17-18 at the City Limits Convention Center, Colby, Kansas. The popular annual event focused solely on irrigation-related topics is hosted in Kansas every third year. Sponsors include Kansas State University, Colorado State University, the University of Nebraska and the Central Plains Irrigation Association.

The conference portion of the event will include many technical irrigation sessions presented by academic researchers from the areas of agronomy and irrigation engineering, for example, as well as representatives from governmental agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Session topics include the crop water budget, optimizing crop water productivity in a variable climate, sensor technologies for irrigation management, advancements in subsurface drip irrigation and center pivot irrigation, updates on groundwater issues and crop options for deficit irrigation.

“The overall theme for this event from a crop water standpoint, particularly for western Kansas, is management with limited water supply,” said Danny Rogers, K-State Research and Extension professor and irrigation engineer. “But, the management issues we talk about with irrigation have application whether you have full water or limited water capabilities. There will be something for everyone.”

Bob Gillen, head of tri-center operations for K-State Research and Extension’s Western Kansas Agricultural Research Centers, will present the first day general session on lessons from 100 years of agricultural research in northwest Kansas. Ajay Sharda, assistant professor in K-State’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, will lead a general session discussion about the potential of technology and precision agriculture on the second day of the event.

The conference includes a menu-driven program, Rogers said, so participants can choose what to attend during the two days. The exposition side of the event will allow for industry representatives and irrigators to interact.

“Producers can come in and see, touch and talk about the new sprinkler options, soil sensors, plant health sensors, potentials for aerial sensors and other items out there,” Rogers said. “It’s a chance to have one-on-one conversations with industry folks, specialists and fellow irrigators.”

For a full list of sessions and presenters and the registration form, visit http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/sdi/REvents/CPIAprog.html. Register early by Jan. 30 at a discounted rate of $85 per person. After Jan. 30, registration is $100 per person. The fee covers access to technical and general sessions, the exposition and on-site meals. For more information, contact Donna Lamm at 785-462-7574 or donnalamm@yahoo.com.

More Ogallala Aquifer coverage here. More Republican River Basin coverage here. More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


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