From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):
Owners of 12 so-called “gap wells” in Sedgwick County won’t be double-billed for being in two augmentation plans thanks to an agreement in the works with the Republican River Water Conservation District.
Left unanswered is the question of whether the wells would have to be curtailed if the Republican District is required to shut down its wells.
Joe Frank, manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, told his board of directors Tuesday that the Republican District has met with the Sedgwick County well owners to discuss an agreement that would prevent them from having to pay the per-acre fee to that district as long as they’re included in another augmentation plan. Eleven of the wells are in the LSPWCD’s augmentation plan and the twelfth well is another plan.
The proposed agreement is the upshot of state legislation establishing new boundaries for the RRWCD to include wells in Kit Carson, Cheyenne and Washington counties that are impacting the Republican River. When the Colorado Department of Water Resources used the U.S. Geological Survey’s data to redraw the boundaries, however, it was found that the 12 “gap wells” in Sedgwick County, originally thought to be in the South Platte River basin, actually were inside the Republican River basin. One of those wells is physically less than a mile from the South Platte River…
Wells within the district are assessed an annual fee of $14.50 per irrigated acre to pay for augmentation of the Republican River to keep Colorado in compliance.
Frank said that he doesn’t know whether that agreement has been signed yet. The Journal-Advocate had not been able to contact the Republican District Tuesday afternoon.
While the agreement over fees would be a fairly easy fix – the legislation adopting the new boundary has nearly identical language in it protecting those well owners – the question of curtailment is stickier. Frank said a practical solution would be to not curtail the Sedgwick County wells, since they have so little impact on the Republican River…
In other business, the LSPWCD formally adopted it 2020 budget on a voice vote.
The district’s proposed budget is $1,173,586, about a 4 percent increase over the 2019 budget. Most of the increase is accounted for by increased personnel costs and an anticipated increase in legal costs.
Again this year the budget is swollen by a quarter-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to fund the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative. Irrigators and other water users often have augmentation plans to offset the effects water well pumping has on the river. These plans can result in users having credits, or excess water available, that they can’t use. Rather than just lose the credits downstream, NCWC helps transfer those credits to someone who needs them in an efficient manner. Members of the cooperative also work to find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved.