Republican River Basin: Special RRWCD board meeting recap

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Here’s a recap of the special board meeting held on Monday for the Republican River Water Conservation District, from Tony Rayl writing for the Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

Mike Sullivan, who was promoted to deputy state engineer last October, was in attendance at the special meeting, held at the Church of the Nazarene. He told the board the state has revamped a settlement agreement that is hopefully agreeable to all three states. Colorado’s leaders are having a private meeting with counterparts from Kansas and Nebraska today, May 21. He said Colorado will see if the other two states will accept what’s being offered. It possibly will be decided then when to continue the Republican River Compact Administration meeting that was continued from April 28, when Kansas and Nebraska representatives both stated they would continue to vote against the compact compliance pipeline due to issues the states cannot agree on. Sullivan said he feels good about a settlement eventually being reached, because Kansas and Nebraska cannot be unreasonable in their opposition to Colorado’s plans for coming into compliance with the Republican River Compact. A sticking point in Kansas approving the pipeline is the claim Colorado does not pass the “sub-basin” test on the South Fork of the Republican, and that a pipeline sending water into the North Fork will not satisfy the South Fork issue…

The RRWCD has taken the stance it will not move forward with the pipeline if the South Fork still remains a problem. Plus, there is the fact irrigated farmers along the South Fork are paying the same assessment fee as everyone else to pay for the pipeline, but could end up having their wells curtailed because of the sub-basin issue. If the wells in the South Fork sub-basin are shut down, which account for approximately one-half of Colorado’s wells in the Republican River Basin, that means the remaining well users will have to take on an even greater burden of paying for the pipeline project…

District engineer Jim Slattery said Monday draining Bonny is the only way to come into compliance on the South Fork — if Kansas is right in its assertion that the South Fork shortfall cannot be made up by the North Fork pipeline. Even, it would take years before Colorado would be in compliance on the South Fork. Sullivan said draining Bonny would help with the sub-basin test, but not on overall compliance. Board member Jack Dowell of Yuma told Sullivan that the state could recoup the revenue it loses from Bonny from other sources in the state, but that the farmers and communities in the region would be left high and dry with no chance to recoup losses if the wells are shut down so Bonny can remain open. Sullivan noted loans and grants have been used for work done at Bonny, and the state needs to make sure it does not hinder future efforts to receive federal funds before closing down Bonny…

Board President Dennis Coryell expressed frustrations that the RRWCD’s pipeline project has been delayed by nearly one year now because of the South Fork issue. Meanwhile, all irrigators are paying the new $14.50 per acre assessment fee for a pipeline that is not being built. He also noted the people in the basin are not getting much information from the state regarding the pipeline negotiations. He urged the state be as transparent as possible in the process so the locals can be informed…

Other discussion included options besides draining Bonny Reservoir. Sullivan said the only other is the “nuclear” option — shutting down all wells. (It has been shown even doing that would not get Colorado into compliance.) Reopening the compact also was brought up. Sullivan said doing so would mean it would have to be open to all parties, meaning even more entities could step in asking for a portion of the water. RRWCD legal counsel David Robbins said Colorado getting more water out of a renegotiated compact would mean convincing Kansas and Nebraska to give up water. He said Colorado would run the fundamental risk of ending up with even less water because the upstream states already are using all they are entitled to, and could very well seek more water out of a new compact…

Coryell noted that in an ag-driven economy, issues at Bonny Reservoir do not speak loudly. “It is not going to be a pretty thing if the South Fork wells are curtailed in order to keep open a facility that has seen its better days,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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