Republican River Water Conservation Board of Directors meeting recap

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From The Yuma Pioneer (Tony Rayl):

The day included presentations on the Colorado Ground Water Management Act, the history and development of Colorado Ground Water Commission rules, distinct rules by ground water management districts, and the new mandatory water metering. And that was just in the morning. Then came the afternoon, featuring a compact accounting update by RRWCD engineer Jim Slattery, State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Assistant State Engineer Mike Sullivan giving an update on getting approval for the proposed pipeline by the Republican River Compact Administration, and RRWCD leaders explaining the district’s current stance in continuing with the pipeline, and why they have done what they have to date.

Colorado invoked fast-track arbitration with fellow compact states Kansas and Nebraska after the RRCA rejected the pipeline on a 1-2 vote last August. It was the second time the RRCA, which consists of the state engineer from each state, rejected Colorado’s proposed pipeline, the first vote coming last April. Wolfe reported Monday that the state still had not selected an arbitrator, which was supposed to have been done two months ago. He later explained Kansas did not want to keep the arbitrator that decided another fast-track arbitration case earlier this year between Kansas and Nebraska. Wolfe said the new finalists all were expensive, particularly with all the states going through budget crunches, and Nebraska wanted to interview all of the finalists in person. He said he had hoped to announce the arbitrator Monday because Nebraska was done with the interviews. However, he had not heard on a final selection before coming to Yuma. When asked about sticking to the fast-track arbitration deadline, Wolfe said Colorado could force the other states to stick to the timeline with the hearings in February, and a final decision in March. However, he left the door open for Colorado allowing a slight extension…

Wolfe revisited the many concerns held by either Kansas or Nebraska in regards to the pipeline. Those include worries Colorado would pump too much one year and then not pump any water into the North Fork in following years, groundwater depletions by the use of the pipeline, the impact depletions could have on the Haigler Ditch in Nebraska, and Kansas’ continued assertion that Colorado must satisfy the South Fork obligations by pumping water into the South Fork, rather than satisfying that by pumping all of the water into the North Fork. Kansas has expressed its wishes that Colorado would extend the pipeline about 15 miles further south to pump water into a South Fork tributary. David Barfield from Kansas has told Colorado his state in theory supports the pipeline, but issues need to be resolved. There is a concern from Colorado’s end about the compact model dictating that groundwater depletions by the pipeline could result in Colorado receiving up to 20 percent less credit. Wolfe said the situation comes down to Kansas and Nebraska being worried they would lose all leverage in future negotiations if they approved the pipeline — even though Colorado has added provisions stating the other two can still seek compensation for past damages, as well as Colorado being obligated to any potential ruling on the sub-basin test…

David Robbins, legal counsel for the RRWCD, said Monday that when the district was formed earlier this decade, the understanding that removing about 30,000 acres from production would about do it in regards to Colorado coming into compliance, with Mother Nature taking care of the rest. With that in mind, the district immediately began working toward CREP and EQIP programs, which pay producers to turn off their wells — CREP for permanent retirement and EQIP temporary turnoffs of a certain amount of years. Robbins said all along Colorado knew it would eventually have to build a pipeline at some time in the future. However, he said that by 2007 it was clear the well retirements alone would not be enough, and the pipeline needed to be done sooner rather than later. Robbins explained why the RRWCD went ahead with purchasing the water rights earlier this year from the Cure family. The water rights are to 62 wells north of Laird, where a pipeline will be built to discharge the water into the North Fork within a half-mile of the Colorado-Nebraska state line…

He said there are a lot of problems with Kansas’ proposal of extending the pipeline to the South Fork. It would entail putting water into a dry creek bed, where it would then have to travel more than 40 miles getting to the gage in Benkleman…

Slattery, during his presentation, explained the importance of draining Bonny Reservoir to help Colorado come into compliance. It would be eliminate 3,300 acre feet per year currently counted against Colorado due to evaporation and seepage from the reservoir’s water. The figure used to be higher, but the reservoir is now being kept around 10,000 acre feet. In fact, Wolfe said he ordered the release of water from the reservoir again earlier this month, sending water down the South Fork, while also keeping Bonny’s level down. The state engineer said there are a lot of issues surrounding the Bonny situation that have to be worked out with a variety of agencies before it could ever be drained. He said he feels is getting close in coming months to getting all those issues settled…

Slattery’s presentations, letters from Kansas and Nebraska concerning the proposed pipeline, Colorado’s proposed resolutions and other important information concerning the pipeline and Republican River Compact, can be found at www.republicanriver.com.

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