(Lincoln, NE) Gov. Dave Heineman expressed satisfaction about the irrigator approval today of a state plan to lease surface water rights from farmers in the Frenchman Valley Irrigation District and release the water to Kansas for better compliance with the terms of a 2003 legal settlement regarding the Republican River Interstate Compact. Frenchman Valley irrigators approved the water lease agreement 43-7.
In partnership with the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Attorney General's Office, the Governor has been working to develop an arrangement to provide a one-time payment to southwestern Nebraska irrigation districts for leasing their water supply during the 2006 irrigation season. Under the terms of the agreement, the state will direct water supplies from the participating irrigation districts to Kansas.
The state has also engaged in similar discussions with the Riverside Irrigation Co., and the Bostwick Irrigation District, both of which have approved tentative agreements.
Gov. Heineman said, "I am pleased that farmers in the district understand the need to work together to solve this complex and important issue for our entire state. More and more Nebraskans are becoming aware of why I have identified water as the issue of the decade. This is a unique challenge for our number-one industry, agriculture, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure the future of responsible irrigation."
Attorney General Jon Bruning said, "Nebraska is working hard to make sure it meets its obligations. Today's agreement is another sign to our friends in Kansas of our good-faith efforts to achieve compliance."
The Governor has proposed directing state funds for the short-term leasing of surface water in the region. The Legislature included approximately $2.7 million in funding as part of the budget bill currently awaiting the Governor's approval. The state funding was proposed as a one-time commitment to give Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) in the basin time to study the impact of regional integrated water management plans already in effect.