U.S. Water News Online
LINCOLN, Neb.-- More than five dozen landowners near the
Republican River have offered to stop irrigating about 5,500 acres in
return for financial incentives.
"That's about what we expected," said Dave Griffith of the Natural
Resources Conservation Service.
Farmers who use groundwater near the Republican River and its
tributaries had to apply by the deadline.
The state and the Upper Republican, Middle Republican, Lower
Republican and Tri-Basin natural resources districts came up with
nearly $1.7 million for the incentives.
Under the National Resources Conservation Service program, farmers
will receive $100 an acre for three years if, under a permanent
easement, they stop irrigating.
The state and the natural resources districts also will provide
one-time payments of $375 an acre, said Steve Chick, state
conservationist for the service.
The targeted land lies roughly within three miles of the river or
With a permanent easement, the landowner forfeits any future
irrigation rights on the land but can still use it for dryland crops
or grass. The easement would remain with the land, even if it were
sold or transferred.
A recent report for the state estimated that continuing heavy
irrigation in the Republican River basin could cost Nebraska as much
as $334 million.
In the report by University of Nebraska agricultural economist Ray
Supalla, he estimated the potential cost for complying with a water
use agreement the state signed in 1943 for the Republican River
The agreement allocated the annual supply in the Republican basin.
Nebraska gets 49 percent, Kansas gets 40 percent and Colorado gets 11
But Nebraska has been using more than its share.
Kansas filed a lawsuit in 1998, arguing that Nebraska breached the
compact by allowing the proliferation and use of thousands of wells
connected to the river and its tributaries.
Nebraska argued that groundwater use was not regulated by the
compact, which also was signed by Colorado, because it was signed
before deep-well irrigation was used in the river basin.
The U.S. Supreme Court later approved the settlement of the
Nebraska did not have to pay money damages as a result of the
settlement, but it would be forced to if Kansas does not get its
share of the water.
Earlier this year, members of the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation
District voted to sell their 2006 water allotment to the state --
which will send it down the Republican River to Kansas -- for about
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