By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Proposed rule changes on the transfer of water allocations didn’t make it past the public hearing and discussion phase during last week’s meeting of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District (URNRD) board.
The board held a public hearing on the proposed changes during their meeting June 3 in Imperial. After the hearing was closed, board members decided the proposal still needs further tweaking.
The proposed changes would either reduce allocation and/or certified irrigated acres when transferring water to different tracts.
In one instance, the allocation would be reduced by 10 percent when a tract was removed from a pool.
Presently, rules prohibit transfer of allocation further than six miles. In the new proposal, that limit is being eliminated.
For compliance purposes, it’s more advantageous to retire irrigation near streams or in the quick response area.
By removing the six-mile limit, the allocation could be moved to tracts much further from the stream. That could result in less streamflow depletion factor (SDF), which is a benefit to the district and state when calculating compliance.
The proposed rules impose a penalty by reducing the certified acres that could be transferred to a new tract. That reduction depends on the number of miles transferred, SDF or historical pumping on a tract, with the highest amount being used to figure the reduction.
For each mile up to six miles, the number of certified irrigated acres that could be transferred would be reduced by 1.5 percent.
For instance, the transfer of 130 certified acres to a tract six miles away, only 117 acres could be transferred to the new tract (6 miles x 1.5 %=9 % reduction or 117 acres).
For each mile past six miles, the certified acres would be reduced by 2 percent for each mile.
The mileage penalty would be reduced by 1 percent for each additional 5 percent decrease in SDF between the two tracts.
If the receiving tract had a higher SDF than the original tract, there would be a one-for-one percentage reduction in certified acres that could be transferred.
The percentage can also be based on historical usage or the last five years of pumping on a tract divided by the annual allocation.
Testimony on Proposal
George Seward of Yuma, Colo., who owns ground in the URNRD, was the sole person to testify on the rules.
He told the board it doesn’t make sense to penalize a transfer, especially when the original tract is right near a stream or in the quick response area.
Even when the SDF is reduced with a transfer, he said there is still a reduction in acres under the proposal.
The district benefits when a high SDF tract is moved miles away from the stream or quick response area, Seward said.
If a tract goes from a 90 percent SDF to a 6 percent SDF, that results in huge capacity towards compliance. He said that kind of transfer should be rewarded with bonus acres, not penalized, as currently proposed.
It defies logic to move water further away from the stream and then be penalized for it, he noted.
After the public hearing was closed later in the meeting, board members devoted significant time to discussing the proposals.
Several members agreed with Seward’s thoughts on the disincentives to transfer water away from streams or quick response areas.
With no clear cut consensus, the proposal was returned to the rules committee for further consideration and examination.
If changes are made to the proposal, a new hearing will have to be held before the board can adopt a new proposal.