Release to begin May 1, lake elevation will drop by 6 feet at completion
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Release of water from Enders Dam for irrigation use hasn’t occurred since 2003.
Beginning on May 1, 4,000 acre feet of water stored in Enders will be released. But this time, the water will be used for compact compliance, not irrigation.
The Hitchcock & Red Willow and Frenchman Valley Irrigation Districts, headquartered in Culbertson, owned the rights to 4,000 acre feet of water being held in Enders.
In mid-March, they sold those 4,000 acre feet to the Middle Republican Natural Resources District (MRNRD) for $100 per acre foot or $400,000. The district will release the water for compliance purposes.
Bob Merrigan, assistant manager at the MRNRD, said the water will be released into the Frenchman Creek. He said since the creek is wet all the way from Enders Dam, they don’t expect a lot of transport loss.
It will pass a measuring gauge at Palisade but the more important gauge is located near Culbertson, where the Frenchman drains into the Republican River.
Craig Scott, manager of the engineering division for the Bureau of Reclamation in McCook, said the Culbertson gauge is the point where water will be measured for compliance purposes.
Merrigan said the water purchased from the irrigation districts, along with water that will be added to the river from the Lincoln County augmentation project, should keep the district in compact compliance.
Merrigan said the MRNRD has to make up 11,000 acre feet for overuse that occurred during the 2013 irrigation season. The Upper Republican NRD must make up 14,000 acre feet while the Lower Republican NRD has to make up 17,000 acre feet.
2003 last irrigation release
This will provide some much-needed revenue for the irrigation districts, Manager Don Felker said.
While there have been no irrigation releases from Enders since 2003, he said they have been able to divert natural flow from the Frenchman at Palisade up until 2013.
In 2013, and again in 2014, the Department of Natural Resources has declared a compact call year. This forces the irrigation districts to pass through all stream flows through the dams, beginning Jan. 1. It also prohibits diverting any natural flows while the call is in place.
Last year, a total of 452 acre feet of water was released from Enders as a result of the compact call year.
Scott said the current inflow into Enders is at 5 cubic feet per second. What inflows that come in after Jan. 1, 2014, will likely have to be released later this year.
Stream flows in the Frenchman have declined over the years, from 80 cfs in 1967 to the present level.
Expect a six-foot drop
The current elevation of the lake is 3,088.57 feet above sea level. When the release is completed, the elevation will drop just more than six feet to 3,082.4 feet.
That will be the bottom of the active pool. The last time the lake stood at this level was at the end of the 2003 irrigation season when the elevation was 3,082.51 feet.
In the two years that followed, 4,327 acre feet were released in 2002 and only 1,757 acre feet released in 2003. Since then, all water that has come into the lake has been stored by the irrigation districts.