Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District hosts informational meeting on proposed irrigation rules

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There is no question the rules are needed to keep Kansas at bay after 24 years of litigation over the Arkansas River Compact, State Engineer Dick Wolfe told about 75 irrigators gathered at the offices of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We’re acutely aware of our requirements under the compact,” Wolfe said. “It is the tail that wags the dog.”[…]

Wolfe convened a committee to reshape the rules after initial objections, including a meeting of the Lower Ark packed by more than 100 people objecting the early version. “It’s been a very effective process for us and useful to us in developing the rules,” Wolfe said. “The state is not against irrigation improvements . . . The rules allow systems to operate, but also preserve the priority system (of water rights).” During the committee process, changes favorable to irrigators were made, added Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Ark District. Many on-farm improvements were taken off the table, leaving sprinklers and drip irrigation. The rules now also accommodate seepage from ponds. “The rules are an attempt to avoid a train wreck like we had on the South Platte in 2002-03,” Nichols said. “They’ve changed a lot, for the better.”[…]

One of those changes involves a compliance plan by the Lower Ark district, which would allow farmers to fill out a form once, make a payment and, barring major changes in irrigation, leave the engineering and water augmentation headaches to the district, said Gregg Ten Eyck, an engineer with Leonard Rice consultants. The Lower Ark has spent about $325,000 so far developing the compliance plan, which it plans to operate at cost. The fees for the plan have not been set. The plan would average out wet and dry years, transferring risks from irrigators to the district. It would draw water from numerous sources to be used at the right time and place to augment flows on the Arkansas River.

The state still would have to verify the plans were accurate, using water commissioners and satellite images to check on the written reports. “The enforcement action would be targeted at the individual farmer,” said Steve Witte, Division 2 engineer.

More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here.

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