From The Burlington Record (Cheri Webb):
One of the meeting rooms at the Burlington Community and Education Center filled up as farmers, ranchers, landowners, bankers and concerned citizens – not just from Kit Carson County, but surrounding counties and states – filed in. They were there to listen and ask questions of the representatives of the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD).
The meeting was set to inform the public of recently approved resolutions by the RRWCD that changes the rates to be paid for conservation contracts in the South Fork Focus Zone (SFFZ). It was facilitated by Deb Daniel, general manager of RRWCD; Steve Kramer, conservation committee chairman; and Rod Lenz, board chairman.
The trio took turns laying the groundwork of how in 2016 Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska came together as the Republican River Compact Administration and agreed to a resolution giving 100% credit from Colorado’s Compliance Pipeline, allowing it to apply to Colorado’s obligations under the compact. However, in exchange for this, Colorado had to agree to retire 25,000 acres in the South Fork Focus Zone by the end of 2029, with 10,000 of those having to be retired by the end of 2024.
If the goal of retiring the 10,000 acres by 2024 and 25,000 by 2029 is not met, Kansas or Nebraska could terminate the agreement, cutting the 100% credit down to 22% credit. This would be disastrous for the whole area, landowner or not, because it would put all large capacity wells at risk of being shut down. This would include irrigation, commercial and municipal wells within the Republican River Basin.
The board then went on to outline their plan to significantly increase payments for retirement of irrigated acres to meet these lofty goals within the SFFZ. However, this did generate some rumblings throughout the crowd as the topic was slightly diverted to how these payments were going to be made.
To offset the additional expenses for the increased payments, the RRWCD is considering increasing the annual water use fee to a total of $30 per irrigated acre in 2022. This is doubling the fee that all consumers are currently being charged, while only the ones within the SFFZ will be getting the increased payments.
One member of the crowd, in a question/statement put it into layman’s terms, “So basically everyone on the inside of the zone pays the same as everyone outside the zone, but the wells outside the zone aren’t eligible for the sweet new deals.”
Daniel responded, noting the effort to determine what people think their water is worth, “We know it’s not ideal, nothing is going to be. However, expediency is key here.”
The RRWCD will be holding several more meetings throughout the month of Sept., to discuss the matter. They will be in Yuma on Sept. 21 at Quintech at 1:30; in Stratton at the community building on Sept. 22 at 1:30; in Cheyenne Wells at the fairgrounds on Sept. 28 at 1:30; and at the Idalia school on Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m.