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NRD to look at rule change for transfers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 20:37

By Russ Pankonin

The Wauneta Breeze

Nearly every month, the board of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) hears variance requests from landowners and irrigators to transfer allocations from one tract to another.

The board has typically been approving these requests, with some conditions.

Rather than deal with these requests on an ongoing basis, the board’s rule-making committee has proposed rule changes to mimic the kind of transfers and conditions the board has been approving.

Dean Large, chairman of the committee responsible for the rules, said the committee wanted to get down on paper what the proposed rule changes could look like.

With farmers moving into their busy season, he didn’t expect the board to hold hearings on the proposal until fall.

That should give board members plenty of time to consider the proposed changes, he noted.

Presently, the rules allow for the transfer of allocation within a floating township. A floating township is any six-square-mile area.

The primary restriction is that only 39 inches of carry forward transfers with the allocation.

Those same criteria apply for allocation transferred within any contiguous 640-acre tract.

If the allocation is transferred within a floating township, but is not within the contiguous tract, then only the  amount of historical use on the tract can be transferred.

This requirement allows the district to keep pumping levels  at or below what has historically been pumped.

The streamflow depletion factor (SDF) only comes into play if the SDF on the receiving tract is higher than the donor tract. If that occurs, the  allocated acres are reduced accordingly.

When the transfer occurs outside of a floating township, these conditions apply: no carryforward allowed on transferred acres; transfer is limited to the historical pumping average of the donor tract; carryforward on any remaining acres in the donor tract that are not transferred can be no more than 39 inches; and historical pumping average on the remaining acres can’t be exceeded.

TERC hearing pending

A June 11 hearing has been scheduled by the Nebraska Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) on Dundy County’s efforts to restore property taxes on the NRD’s augmentation property above Rock Creek.

Legal Counsel Joel Burke said a request has been made to have the proceedings of last year’s hearing on the unresolved issue entered as the record for this hearing.

He said they are still awaiting a decision from TERC on that.

Dundy County lost property taxes on the land purchased by the URNRD for the Rock Creek project. Current law does not allow the URNRD to make any in-lieu of tax payment to Dundy County for the lost tax revenue of approximately $125,000.

Dundy County maintains that the URNRD doesn’t need to own the land the water is being pumped from. The URNRD said the ground is for public use because the augmentation pumping benefits the entire district.

Long-term state agreements

URNRD Manager Jasper Fanning told the board Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado continue to discuss long-term solutions to compliance issues in the Republican River Basin.

Kansas has agreed to give Nebraska 100 percent credit for augmentation pumping in 2014 and 2015.

Fanning suggested these short-term agreements could be crafted into a five-year agreement, or perhaps even longer.

With augmentation pumping aiding both the district and state for compliance purposes, Fanning said the district has been in discussions with the Department of Natural Resources about the integrated management plans (IMP).

With compliance looking to be more certain, Fanning said it’s time to reevaluate the IMPs and what actions are still needed for future compact  compliance.