Bostwick Irrigation District sues state and NRDs | New

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RED CLOUD – Nebraska Irrigation District Bostwick and member irrigators have filed a lawsuit against the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Republican River Basin Natural Resource Districts, seeking redress for grievances related to closure of water diversion and storage permits.

The lawsuit was filed in Lancaster County District Court on January 11. The plaintiffs include the District of Nebraska Bostwick itself, as well as six individual irrigators from Nebraska Bostwick representing a class of approximately 162 people.

The named defendants include the NDNR and its director, Gordon “Jeff” Fassett; and the upper, middle and lower Republican NRDs. Nebraska Bostwick District is within LRNRD, which encompasses all of Furnas, Harlan and Franklin counties, most of Webster County, and southern Nuckolls County.

The irrigation district is based at Red Cloud. LRNRD is headquartered in Alma.

Under a contract with the United States Bureau of Reclamation, the Nebraska Bostwick Irrigation District supplies surface water to over 22,400 acres of farmland via the Naponee, Franklin and Courtland / Superior canals downstream of the Harlan County Reservoir. The district holds permits to divert the natural flow of the river and use the water stored on its behalf in Harlan. But in recent years, storage and diversion permit closures have left the neighborhood with little to no water to send customers to.

The permit closings occur in what are known as the Compact Appeal Years in the Republican Basin, as declared by the state. In the Compact’s appeal years, low water conditions necessitated additional management steps in the river basin to ensure Nebraska’s compliance with the 1943 Republican Interstate Pact.

Permit closings are ordered by the NDNR, which oversees surface water statewide, under Integrated Water Resource Management Plans, or IMPs, which the state has jointly approved with local NRDs. In Nebraska, the NRDs have the power and responsibility to regulate the use of groundwater.

Republican basin irrigation districts like Nebraska Bostwick and French Cambridge have long protested that Nebraska was not doing enough to restrict pumping of groundwater irrigation, to the detriment of the interests of surface irrigators.

“The lawsuit sets out in detail the problem that exists,” the District of Bostwick said in a press release Tuesday. “In fact, based on Nebraska’s own groundwater model used to calculate pump-out depletion from wells, there is virtually no water left for surface water users under the Pact without that more stringent groundwater controls be implemented. In other words, the problem does not go away on its own.

Over the past year, agreements reached by Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado – signatory states of the Republican River Compact – would have given Nebraska greater flexibility to meet its obligations and gave Nebraska’s NRDs full credit. for the groundwater that it pumps to the Republican River through flow increase projects. Officials said the agreements should allow Nebraska’s surface irrigation districts to receive at least some water.

But Bostwick in his press release said the district was again subject to a closure notice for 2016 and was told it would not be able to divert or store water for irrigation.

The lawsuit claims that the state-passed IMPs and NRDs are illegal and that the recent closure notices imposed on Nebraska Bostwick are also illegal. The lawsuit also alleges that Fassett exceeded the scope of his authority and that the defendants’ actions amount to a taking of property belonging to the members of Nebraska Bostwick without compensation. Without redress, district claims, violations of due process and equal protection exist.

In addition to the Irrigation District, the main plaintiffs in this case are Scott Losey of Republican City, Dan Shipman of Guide Rock, Aaron Lewis of Riverton, Gary Rasser of Red Cloud, Robert Brown of Superior and William Wentworth of Inavale.

The plaintiffs are represented by lawyer Michael Klein of the law firm Holdrege Anderson, Klein, Brewster and Brandt.

A similar dispute has been filed by customers of the Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District, which serves customers upstream of the Harlan County reservoir, in the Furnas County District Court.


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