NE, KS, CO Again Reach Agreement On Crediting, Water Releases

NE, KS, CO Again Reach Agreement On Crediting, Water Releases

Water leaders in Kansas and Nebraska have again reached agreement on administration of Republican River water that benefits both states.

At a special meeting of the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) in Manhattan, Kan., on Nov. 19, the two states and Colorado formally approved a resolution that will give Nebraska 100% credit for water that Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) pump to increase Republican River flows in 2015. The resolution also ensures that the augmentation water won't be wasted: Kansas will have access to it when it desires in 2015, or subsequent years.

Without the crediting agreement, NRDs operating the NCORPE augmentation project in Lincoln County, Neb., would have to pump about twice as much water in 2015 than what the agreement now requires. And there would have been no guarantee that Kansas water users would have received the water at a time when they could use it. Brian Dunnigan, Director of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and chairman of the RRCA, cited recent comments from U.S. Supreme Court Special Master William Kayatta, who encouraged the states to work towards greater consensus for administering the waters of the Basin. "It is in that spirit that the states have negotiated the resolution that was approved today," Dunnigan said.

In October, the RRCA approved a similar agreement for 2014. Combined, the Rock Creek Augmentation project in Dundy County operated by the Upper Republican NRD and the NCORPE project operated by the Upper Republican, Middle Republican and Lower Republican NRDs in 2014 will add approximately 63,500 acre feet of water to the Republican River system. Had the agreement for 2014 not been reached, Nebraska would get credit for just 37,000 acre feet. And instead of pumping approximately 40,000 acre feet in 2015 to maintain compliance, the new agreement means that approximately half that amount will have to be pumped. In addition, Nebraska potentially would have been forced to release roughly 30,000 acre feet of water now stored in Harlan County Lake for compliance purposes downstream to Kansas during fall and winter months when it couldn't be used by irrigators, as well as passing inflows through the reservoir for the rest of the year.

David Barfield, Kansas' representative on the RRCA and Chief Engineer for the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources, said the agreement for 2015 will provide "additional, valuable experience as we seek long term agreement" with Nebraska. "Approving the resolutions will bring significant benefits to the states by preserving the remaining water supply in Harlan County Lake and providing additional certainty to water users throughout the Basin," he said. Combined, the agreements for 2014 and 2015 mean Nebraska will have to provide approximately 20,000 acre feet of water via its augmentation projects, primarily NCORPE, in 2015 to maintain compliance with the Republican River Compact and related settlement agreement.

A portion of the compliance water stored in Harlan County Lake will also be available to Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District. Augmentation projects also reduce the amount of time surface water is administered in Nebraska to assure compliance. "These resolutions reflect the states' strong resolve on these matters," said Dick Wolf, Colorado's representative on the RRCA, Director of the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Colorado State Engineer.