Posted 6 months ago
By John Axtell
The Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District will find organized opposition to proposed changes in its groundwater management rules when it holds an informational meeting and public hearing this afternoon at 2:00 at the Country Kitchen Restaurant in Chadron.
The proposed changes would reduce the amount of water an irrigator can pump to an average of 13″ over 5 years…half-an-inch less and one year more than the current average…in the 2 subdistricts currently with allotments and put a 15″-5 year rule in effect in the rest of the NRD.
A group of landowners from all 6 subdistricts is leading the opposition and has taken out ads about the plan and the Chadron meeting.
They say expanding the allotments to the entire district…which includes all of Dawes, Sheridan, and Box Butte counties and northern Sioux…is premature and unnecessary, a one-size-fits-all approach that has no basis in science and doesn’t follow the district’s integrated management plan for groundwater
That plan has trigger points for imposing pumping limits that are based on drops from 1990 aquifer levels, and opponents of expansion say the subdistricts covering Box Butte County and the Mirage Flats area are the only ones to fall enough to trigger limits.
Aquifer levels in the other 4 did show drops last year, but all remained above the 1990 levels. The opponents blame the drops on the extreme drought and believe all 4 subareas will show gains when 2014 monitoring is done this spring.
NRD general manager Patrick O’Brien says the proposed changes are part of a long-range strategy to protect the longevity of the aquifer and water well in to the future.
O’Brien calls it “a bold move that may not be popular with some, local control of groundwater is a responsibility that is not always nor should be easy. Choices and decisions need to be made for the long term good of the resource and the economy.”