Work to continue on long-term solutions
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
When Special Master William J. Kayatta issued his findings on water disputes between Kansas and Nebraska, he strongly suggested the states start working together to even out their differences.
Those words proved prophetic as Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado came together on how best to serve their states and the water users in the Republican Basin.
On Wednesday, Nov. 19, the three states signed resolutions that give both Nebraska and Colorado 100 percent credit for their augmentation pumping. That pumping will help keep the states in compact compliance with Kansas.
Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) Manager Jasper Fanning said it’s a major step forward to have the three states on the same page working together.
“The fact that the discussions have produced agreements that will have practical benefits for water users in both states shows resolve and competency on both sides that provide hope that future differences can continue to be settled outside a courtroom,’’ Fanning said.
He said the Nov. 19 meeting in Manhattan, Kan., was a mere formality as negotiations had already been completed in advance.
Fanning praised Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Director Brian Dunnigan for working with Kansas’ secretary of agriculture to craft a solution that will benefit all three states.
Dunnigan said Kayatta’s comments played a role in getting all three states in accord.
“It is in that spirit that the states have negotiated the resolution that was approved today,” said Dunnigan last week.
Last week’s agreement on 2015 pumping credits came on the heels of a similar agreement between Nebraska and Kansas signed Oct. 22.
In that agreement, Kansas agreed to give Nebraska 100 percent credit for 2014 augmentation pumping and extended Colorado’s 100 percent credit to 2015.
19,000 acre-feet offset
Fanning said preliminary projections by the state show that Nebraska will need to deliver about 19,000 acre-feet (AF) to Kansas in 2015 to comply with the agreement.
He said Kansas wanted to be sure the water was available when needed so augmentation pumping will be done prior to June 1.
Of the 19,000 AF, Fanning said the URNRD will be responsible for offsetting 12,800 AF.
As noted during the regular URNRD meeting earlier this month, Fanning said the plan will be to rest the Rock Creek augmentation project next year.
The URNRD didn’t use its share of pumping this year from the Lincoln County augmentation project. As a result, he said most of the pumping will come from the Lincoln County project.
As part of the resolutions signed last week, all three states agreed to work together to find long-term solutions to compliance issues. These issues have long been the source of contention between Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
The issue has come up twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, with the latest action still pending. A decision on those issues is expected no later than June 2015.
Dunnigan resigns post
In a move that surprised most everyone, Dunnigan submitted his resignation from DNR last Thursday, the day after he signed the resolutions with the three states.
His resignation becomes effective on Dec. 7.
Fanning said Dunnigan has contributed significant achievements to water policy in Nebraska since taking over the post in 2008.
Fanning said people in the water community are disappointed to see him go.
From the outset of his tenure, Dunnigan wrestled with key interstate water matters in both the Republican River and Platte River basins.
His leadership was instrumental in resolving critical interstate water matters and improving the overall resilience of Nebraskans to respond to extreme droughts and floods.
He leaves the post after stabilizing disputes with Kansas and opening a new path of cooperation with Kansas on compliance issues.