By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican
This week’s announcement that four area natural resource districts have purchased more than 15,000 acres of irrigated land in Lincoln County for stream flow augmentation shows just what can happen with some cooperation and visionary thinking.
Five years ago, the cooperation between the NRDs in the Republican Basin didn’t exist to undertake such an endeavor—then again, maybe not a year ago either.
But most importantly, the NRDs came together in an effort that will stabilize the ag economy in the Republican River Basin and the Platte River Basin.
This new project, when completed, has the capability to provide up to 45,000 acre-feet of water annually to keep Nebraska in compliance with Kansas and help the Platte River Basin meet compliance efforts in that basin as well.
What it really does is insure that groundwater will be available for irrigation in the Republican Basin for many years to come. With all the compact litigation by Kansas, having enough water to irrigate in the future was uncertain at best.
True to form, it was the Upper Republican NRD that played a key role in making this latest project happen, and in particular manager Jasper Fanning.
Farmers in this area are known for their progressive approach to farming. They were the first to adopt water meters to monitor water use. They made improvements to pivots to better use the water allocated to them. They were quick to adopt technology, such as satellite-based guidance systems, to become more efficient.
It was also the Upper Republican NRD who led the way by envisioning a stream augmentation project within the district AND making it happen!
With his expertise on the subject, Fanning became the point man when it was learned that a large irrigated farm operation in Lincoln County was for sale. Many people thought the project was just simply too big to take on but it was Fanning who suggested that a cooperative effort amongst NRDs could make it happen.
In less then the span of a month, Fanning brought the Middle and Lower Republican NRDs and the Twin Platte NRD together with a common goal. A project that seemed impossible at first began to take shape through a cooperative effort that will benefit each and everyone of us for years to come.
It’s hard to fully understand or explain the enormous impact this project will have on this region and Nebraska, for that matter.
Irrigation, both groundwater and surface water, represents the lifeblood of our ag-based economy in Nebraska. Removing the uncertainties of whether that water will be available in the future will stabilize local economies and allow our farmers to do what they do best—feed the world.
Turning a vision into a reality epitomizes the quality of great leaders. And so, we’re privileged to have leaders like Fanning, his staff and board serving the people and representing the interests of the Upper Republican NRD. It’s fair to say that without their leadership and vision, this project would have been nothing more than a pipe dream. Great job!!!