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New water deal pleases Nebraska officials

New water deal pleases Nebraska officials

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DENVER — An agreement approved Wednesday by the Republican River Compact Administration gives Nebraska 100 percent credit for groundwater that natural resources districts are using to augment river flows for compact compliance.

It also ensures that water stored in Harlan County Reservoir for compliance won’t go to waste, according to a press release from Upper Republican NRD officials in Imperial, Nebraska.

They said it is hoped the agreement will lead to a similar deal for 2015 and to a new, positive working relationship between Kansas and Nebraska that benefits water users in both states.

“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,” Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Jim Schneider said.

“The ability of the states to work together in resolving these issues is a significant step forward.”

There are two augmentation projects: the Rock Creek Augmentation Project in Dundy County, operated by the Upper Republican District, and the Nebraska Cooperative Republican Platte Enhancement project in Lincoln County, operated by the Upper, Middle and Lower Republican NRDs, along with the Twin Platte NRD.

Combined, the projects will add about 63,500 acre-feet of water to the Republican River system for 2014. Without the agreement, Nebraska’s credit would have been 37,000 acre-feet.

Without the agreement, Nebraska could have had to release roughly 30,000 acre-feet of water now stored in Harlan County Lake for compact compliance during the fall and winter when it had no value to irrigators.

The agreement approved by representatives of the compact states, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, means Kansas water users could get 20,000 to 25,000 acre-feet next year, and the balance could be used by Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District irrigators downstream from Harlan County Dam.

The agreement follows last week’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on a special master’s recommendation on penalties for Nebraska’s overuse of compact water in 2005 and 2006.

A final decision by the court is expected by the end of June.

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