Upper Big Blue NRD Board Approves New Changes to RULE 5 Pertaining to Allocation and Metering
YORK, NE --The Upper Big Blue NRD Board of Directors met on Thursday, December 19, 2013, at 1:30 p.m., to discuss the proposed changes to District Rule 5 pertaining to water allocation and flow meters, as well as other NRD business. After receiving public comment and taking into consideration historical groundwater use, the Board has passed the following new rules and regulations which will become effective on February 1, 2014:
1). Allocation Amount & Duration: The Board set the first allocation period of 30 acre inches over a three years. A second allocation period would be activated for 45 acre inches over five years. The Allocation Trigger on the Upper Big Blue NRD’s average groundwater level chart has been in place since 1990. Because of the 2012 drought, and subsequent heavy pumping of groundwater to irrigate crops, the average groundwater level in the Upper Big Blue NRD has seen its largest one year decline since record keeping began in 1961. “We could get to allocation in one dry season, or we might get a wet season or two, and not get there for a few years, but the measures are in place to continue to maintain the sustainability of groundwater in our District” stated John Turnbull, General Manager of the Upper Big Blue NRD.
2). Flow Meters:The rule change now requires that ALL wells with a pumping capacity greater than 50 gpm be equipped with a mechanical flow meter if the District average groundwater level falls below the Allocation Trigger, or by January 1, 2016, whichever occurs first. It should be noted that, electronic flow meters will be grandfathered up to February 1, 2014, when the new rule changes take effect. Flow meters are necessary to accurately record water use.
3). NO RESTRICTION on expansion of irrigated acres; NO MORITORIUMS on well drilling: (Except for the already designated fully-appropriated area in Northern Hamilton County). Otherwise, there is no well drilling moratorium, and no restriction of expanding acres for irrigation.
4). Groundwater Transfers Would CEASE:Groundwater transfers will no longer be allowed if the Allocation Trigger is reached.
5). Certified Groundwater Use Acres and Pooling: The new changes to Rule 5 provide for the combining of certified groundwater use acres into units. A unit of groundwater use acres consists of acres in the same government survey section or irrigated by the same well that are under the control of one groundwater user. The term “pooling” refers to the combining of certified Groundwater Use Acres (irrigated acres) for the purpose of determining what lands will be assigned an allocation.
“The Board of Directors has been concerned about irrigation demands during the current dry cycle of 2012 and 2013, and the decline in the groundwater. They listened to constituents, reviewed data, considered staff recommendations, and held a public hearing. They discussed what changes to make in the NRD Groundwater Regulations at several committee and Board of Directors meetings. Through all of that, careful consideration was given that while allocation is necessary for groundwater sustainability, flexibility is essential for producers,” stated Turnbull. “The regulations adopted allow the producer to spread the allocation over several years, more in dry years and less in wet years. Also pooling allows the producer to irrigate more on gravity fields and less on center pivot ground provided the water use stays within the allocation limits.”
A copy of the newly amended changes to Rule 5 is available upon request at the NRD office at 105 N. Lincoln Avenue, York, Nebraska, and on the NRD website at: www.upperbigblue.org. Activities and projects of the Upper Big Blue NRD are reviewed and approved by a locally elected Board of Directors. The Upper Big Blue NRD is one of 23 Natural Resources Districts across the state. For more information please call (402) 362-6601.