By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
After two years of pumping to help meet compact compliance with Kansas, pumping on the Rock Creek augmentation project in southwest Dundy County has shut down.
Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) Assistant Manager Nate Jenkins said the pumping was shut off on Jan. 27.
He made the report to board members during their regular February meeting Tuesday in Imperial.
Based on water supply forecast for 2015 by the state, the URNRD will still have to offset 14,600 acre feet (AF) for forecasted pumping in 2015 to remain in compact compliance with Kansas.
Jenkins said this pumping will come from the URNRD’s share of pumping from the Lincoln County augmentation project.
The URNRD could also be the recipient of $1 million in funding from the state’s Water Reserve Cash Fund established by the Legislature last year.
The money would be used to help defray costs for the URNRD to remain in compact compliance.
The board directed staff to follow up on the availability of the funding. A similar amount has been offered to the Middle Republican NRD for the same purpose.
Follow-up on Rock Creek
Jenkins said Tuesday there are no plans to operate the Rock Creek project in 2015. They are hopeful it will be some time before the URNRD needs to pump the Rock Creek project again.
Now that pumping has ended, Jenkins said they will work with landowners to remedy erosion issues that developed in the streambed during the past two years of pumping.
The board also approved flash-grazing on Rock Creek project in an effort to control weeds in the native grass stand.
Jenkins reported 10 more pivots were sold off from the Rock Creek property.
He said the pivots were sold using the online auction site, Big Iron. Jenkins said they chose this site because it was open to anyone willing to bid.
He said the sale price for the 10 pivots ranged from as little as $3,600 to as high as $50,000. After paying the commission, Jenkins said the URNRD netted $163,384 from the sale of the 10 pivots.
By mid-February, Jenkins said they will have sold off 75 pivots on the Lincoln County project operated by N-CORPE, the interlocal agency of NRDs formed to buy and build the project.
The pivots on the N-CORPE project were mostly 1980s vintage and have sold anywhere from $7,500 to $9,000. Some of the pivots have gone to buyers as far away as Montana, he said.
Last year, N-CORPE seeded 3,500 acres back to native grass. The number of acres was limited due to a shortage of grass seed.
Jenkins said they have obtained enough seed to finish seeding another 10,000 acres this spring.
He estimated it will cost $850,000 for seed and drilling on those 10,000 acres. N-CORPE received a $700,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund to cover about 70 percent of the cost of the seed for this year and last year’s seeding.
Game & Parks interest
Jenkins said N-CORPE has been working with the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission (G&P) on an agreement that would make 8,500 acres of the N-CORPE project open to public access.
He said the parties are still working out details on how such an effort could be funded. A federal grant is being sought by G&P to help defray costs.
Jenkins noted the URNRD has also approached G&P about designating 2,500 acres of the Rock Creek project as public access land.
Chemigation rule revisions
Board members approved sending a new rule proposal on chemigation to public hearing next month.
Chemigation has always been part of the rules but revised language to adhere to state statutes has been added.
The chemigation inspection program by the NRD is designed to be self-supporting without the use of tax dollars.
As a result, the annual cost for chemigation permits and renewals will increase over the next two years.
Any new permits requested in 2015 will cost $30. Presently, the cost is $20.
All renewals in 2015 will be $20 each with a $40 cost phased in in 2016.
Each year, the NRD technicians inspect more than 2,700 chemigation units to ensure proper installation and operation.
In addition to the chemigation rule changes, wording was changed regarding the type of flow meters used by farmers. The new wording will allow the use of electronic meters.
Coalition of western NRDs
Board members approved the cost of $5,000 to join a coalition of western Nebraska NRDs that have been designated as fully appropriated or over-appropriated in terms of water supplies.
So far, seven of the nine NRDs with those designations have joined the coalition.
The NRDs will form an interlocal agency that will hire a lobbying firm that includes former Attorney General Jon Bruning and Assistant AG Dave Cookson.
Cookson has defended Nebraska on numerous water issues with Kansas. He presented the oral arguments for Nebraska in the U.S. Supreme Court last fall pertaining to the special master’s ruling with Kansas.
The goal of the coalition is to provide a single voice in Lincoln for western Nebraska NRDs dealing with the appropriation designation.
The NRDs that have joined the coalition include the Upper Republican, Lower Republican, Tri-Basin, Central Platte, Twin Platte, South Platte and Upper Niobrara White in northwest Nebraska.
The North Platte NRD, which has more surface water acres than groundwater, opted out of the coalition. The Middle Republican NRD has tabled action on the issue.