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Draft changes to rules for groundwater get nod from NRD board

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WAHOO – At its December meeting, the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District Board approved draft changes to irrigation rules and regulations that would give the district more flexibility in dealing with groundwater shortages.

The changes would include the creation of two “Special Quantity Areas” within Butler, Saunders, Platte and Colfax counties. In these areas, groundwater levels can be highly volatile and heavily influenced by drought and groundwater pumping. The updated rules would also allow Special Quantity Areas to be declared for other parts of the district if the need should arise.

The district’s policy for irrigation expansion in the existing Limited Development Area would also change under the new rules. Because of the way the existing rules were written, currently the district must approve 2,500 new or expanded irrigated acres each year in the Limited Development Area if it receives enough applications, regardless of other considerations such as drought. Under the new rules, the district would have the option of approving up to 2,500 acres, but would not be obligated to do so.

A public hearing will be held on Jan. 13 at noon at the district office in Wahoo to take input on the rules changes and the potential lifting of a temporary stay on well drilling that was declared in October. At the district’s regular board meeting, immediately following the public hearing, the board may take a vote on whether to finalize the rules changes and/or lift the temporary stay.

The district is considering all or a portion of these regulations for adoption in the Special Quantity Area:

- Restrictions on pumping during certain times of the day or the establishment of a system of rotation for pumping.

- An allocation of the amount of ground water that may be withdrawn by ground water users for agricultural purposes;

- Mandatory acre certification prior to the commencement of irrigation in 2014; 

- The installation of devices for measuring ground water withdrawals for agricultural purposes;

- Mandatory annual reporting of static water levels in all irrigation wells; 

- Limit or prevent the expansion of irrigated acres or otherwise limit or prevent increases in the consumptive use of ground water withdrawals from water wells used for agricultural purposes;

The use of best management practices, including no irrigation for agricultural purposes during the offseason; 

- Mandatory educational requirements; and 

- That new or replacement water wells to be used for domestic or other purposes shall be constructed to such a depth that they are less likely to be affected by seasonal water declines caused by other water wells in the same area.

The full text of the draft rules and regulations and more information is available on the NRD website at www.lpnnrd.org. If you have questions on the proposed changes to the NRD’s irrigation policies, please contact us at 402-443-4675 or lpnnrd@lpnnrd.org.

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