Colorado takes important step in resolving Republican River dispute

Republican River Basin
Republican River Basin

From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (Todd Hartman):

Colorado this week completed successful negotiations with Kansas and Nebraska to allow for operation of the Compact Compliance Pipeline to deliver water to the North Fork of the Republican River in 2014. The agreement marks an important step toward resolving long-standing disputes under the Republican River Compact and providing more certainty to the agricultural economy across the region.

The agreement allows Colorado to operate the pipeline in 2014 and demonstrate its benefits to agricultural operators in Kansas and Nebraska. The 12-mile pipeline will deliver irrigation water directly to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line, providing the water necessary for Colorado to meet its Compact obligations with Kansas and Nebraska.

“This is a great step forward,” said Colorado’s State Engineer Dick Wolfe. “This has been a hard-fought matter, and hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three States to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”

Colorado sought arbitration of this matter in May after Kansas denied Colorado’s request to operate the pipeline indefinitely to comply with the Compact. This fall, Kansas proposed a path forward that would allow Colorado to operate the pipeline for Compact compliance in 2014 so all parties could gain experience with its operations.

On Thursday, the three states voted to approve a resolution to use the pipeline in 2014. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and its Division of Water Resources, along with the State Engineer, express their appreciation to the Attorney General’s Office in its efforts to negotiate with Kansas, and also thank the Republican River Water Conservation District and the Sandhills Ground Water Management District for their efforts to assist in reaching a resolution.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas have agreed to use a 12-mile pipeline to transfer water from wells in northeastern Colorado to the Republican River for agriculture in Kansas and Nebraska in 2014.

The deal made this week may help resolve a decades-old dispute over rights to water in the river, which flows from eastern Colorado into Kansas and Nebraska. Colorado hasn’t been meeting its obligations under the 1942 Republican River Compact that governs use of the river.

In May, Colorado officials sought arbitration after Kansas rejected a request to use the pipeline to meet its obligations under the compact.

Kansas also has argued that Nebraska farmers took more than their share of river water and tried to stop Nebraskans from irrigating 500,000 acres in the 5.8 million-acre Republican River Basin.

The pipeline would carry irrigation water pumped out of the ground into wells north of Wray and deliver that water to the North Fork of the Republican River near the Nebraska state line. Colorado natural resources officials said Friday the pipeline potentially could deliver 13,000 acre-feet of water a year to Nebraska.

State engineer Dick Wolfe called the deal to use the pipeline “a great step forward” in a hard-fought matter. “Hopefully this demonstrates that we can work together as three states to address these challenging issues and come to a permanent resolution on the Republican River.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in recent years has convened state legal officials to encourage collaboration. Past agreements have aimed at state monitoring and control over water use to comply with the compact, which allotted 300,000 acre-feet a year for Nebraska, 240,000 acre-feet a year for Kansas and 40,000 acre-feet a year for Colorado.

More Republican River Basin coverage here and here.

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