HOLDREGE — Tri-Basin Natural Resources District officials will wait another year before deciding if irrigators in two eastern Kearney County townships with groundwater level declines should face additional water management rules.

Tri-Basin General Manager John Thorburn told the Hub that approximately 40 people attended Tuesday’s board meeting, which included hearings on two proposals:

- Putting Eaton Township under Phase 2 groundwater quantity management rules requiring all irrigation wells to have flowmeters.

- Moving May Township to Phase 3 rules that could require water use allocations.

Thorburn said board members noted that groundwater levels in that area were up this spring because of extremely wet weather. Also, Eaton Township was slightly under the trigger level for Phase 2.

He said it was decided to have more discussions about allocations with May Township irrigators.

In other business, the board set the property tax levy at 2.14 cents per $100 valuation for the fiscal year 2019-20 budget. That compares to the previous levy of 1.75 cents.

The new budget approved at the board’s Aug. 13 meeting in Axtell includes a property tax asking of $1,105,311.38, compared to $909,228.67 for FY2018-19.

Thorburn said at that meeting the reason for a higher property tax asking was to replenish cash reserve funds spent to purchase the old National Guard armory in Holdrege as an equipment maintenance and storage building.

Other costs in the coming fiscal year may include the Sand Creek groundwater recharge project in eastern Kearney County — the area with groundwater declines — and a proposed Platte-Republican Diversion Project in Gosper County.

On Tuesday, the board approved a contract amendment with EA Engineering of Lincoln for additional work on Sand Creek project water-check structures to slow flows and allow seepage into the groundwater.

Thorburn told the Hub that three sites for such structures initially were surveyed by engineers, but two landowners decided not to sign project agreements. One new site will be reviewed on property owned by a cooperating landowner, he said, and the engineering amendment for $2,700 is for that survey.

The Tri-Basin board also received a petition from landowners seeking a new drainage improvement project on the lower end of North Dry Creek in Kearney County.

Twenty landowners, mostly from western Kearney County, asked the board Aug. 13 for help to resolve flooding in their fields within the North Dry Creek and Lost Creek watersheds. Several landowners said there was extreme damage from the exceptional early July flood, but rains of even a few inches also cause field flooding.

They were told the first step to create a new IPA was to submit a petition signed by at least five focus area landowners.

Tri-Basin staff now will identify proposed boundaries and “units” for each property based on land use and expected project benefits.

Finally, landowners within the proposed IPA will vote on whether to create it, knowing they would pay per-unit fees to reimburse the NRD for project construction and maintenance costs.

lori.potter@kearneyhub.com

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