NCORPE Gets 100% Credit

NCORPE Gets 100% Credit

Water pumped under the NCORPE and Rock Creek augmentation projects, which prevented an irrigation shutdown on more than 300,000 acres in 2014, will get 100 percent credit under an agreement approved in late October by the group that administers the Republican River Compact. The deal reached between Nebraska and Kansas and approved by the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA), which also includes Colorado, also ensures compact compliance water being stored in Harlan County Reservoir will be beneficially used by Kansas water users. Had a deal not been raeched between bthe states, Nebraska would have been forced to deliver the water this fall and winter at a time when it can't be stored or used in Kansas.

The agreement approved in Denver could be a precurosr to a similar deal for 2015 and illustrates a new, positive working relationship between Kansas and Nebraska that benefits water users in both states. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Department of Agriculture should be commended for proactively working with Nebraska officials to navigate difficult issues and ultimately reach agreement that benefits both sides.

"The resolution approved by the RRCA allows water now being held in Harlan County Reservoir to be released to Kansas during the 2015 irrigation season when it can be beneficially used, without compromising Nebraska's ability to maintain compact compliance," siad Jim Schneider, deputy director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources who chaired the RRCA meeting. "The ability of the states to work together in resolving these issues is a significant step forward."

Combined, the Rock Creek Augmentation project in Dundy County operated by the Upper Republican NRD and the NCORPE project will add approximately 63,500 acre feet of water to the Republican River system in 2014. Had the agreement to receive 100 percent credit not been reached, Nebraska would have gotten credit for just 37,000 acre feet.

"This agreement reflects the intent of the compact settlement, giving the appropriate credit for augmentation and allowing our downstream neighbors every opportunity to use the water that the irrigators and taxpayers in the Basin paid to provide through the projects implemented under the settlement agreement," said Jasper Fanning, manager of the Upper Republican NRD. "The agreement should provide Nebraskans assurance that water being added to streams in 2014 effectively prevented a shutdown of more than 300,000 irrigated acres in the Republican Basin this year and that we aren't being required to do more than what we should under the agreement. The fact Kansas and Nebraska were able to reach an agreement that accomplishes this and at the same time benefits both Kansas and Nebraska water users should be commended."

Had the agreement not been reached, Nebraska potentially would have been forced to release roughly 30,000 acre feet of water now stored in Harlan County Reservoir over the fall and winter when it couldn't have been used by Kansans. Under the agreement, Kansas water users could get 20,000-25,000 acre feet next year, and the balance could be used by irrigators in the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District.

The agreement follows oral arguments in October before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a Special Master's recommendations that 300,000 acres in Nebraska's portion of the Repoublican Basin not be permanently shut down as Kansas had requested. The Special Master also recommended that Nebraska pay a penalty of $5.5 million for overuse in 2005 and 2006, not the $80 million Kansas had sought. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to accept the Special Master's recommendations by the end of June.