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NRD land purchase a big step forward PDF Print E-mail

By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican Co-Publisher
Members of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District board made a bold move this month to insure the district and Nebraska remain in compliance with Kansas concerning Republican Basin streamflow use.
That bold move came in the form of the purchase of 4,000 acres, of which 3,261 acres are irrigated, in southwest Dundy County for a price of $10 million.
Frankly, I believe this is the best news ever in the history of the URNRD!
After the 2011 crop year, agricultural irrigation on the tract will be permanently retired. Any future pumping of water on the tract will be solely for the purpose of putting more water back into the stream.
This augmentation of streamflow by the URNRD will help offset streamflow depletions that will likely occur in dry years, which are predicted one third of the time.
By augmenting the water supply, it  insures against having to shut down irrigators in the district whose land rests near a stream or tributary. That’s big!!!!!
Not only will this help protect the livelihoods of these irrigators but it will help sustain the local economy that’s so reliant on agriculture.
By purchasing our own augmentation tract within the district, the URNRD no longer has to look to other districts in the basin for augmentation sites. We are no longer beholden to these other NRDs to help meet our compliance issues.
When the most recent integrated management plan with the state was adopted by the board, it included regulatory shutdowns as part of a worst-case scenario for the district to remain in compliance. The board hoped they never had to be used and were looking for options to insure that.
While the IMP may have been controversial, it’s because of this agreement with the state that made this project possible. The language in the IMP will protect the augment water from being used for any other purpose than compliance.  That’s big, too.!!!!!
The management, staff and board all need to be commended for their vision to take advantage of this opportunity and make this project a reality.
There are still many details to be worked out before the project becomes operational but this is great news for the district, for the local economy, for schools and everyone who calls Southwest Nebraska home.


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