Ag News -
Thursday, 11 October 2012 06:51
Board rules that non-reviewed applications must wait on study.
By Amy Bickel - The Hutchinson News -
With aquifer levels dropping in southern Reno County, Equus Beds board members have halted approval of all new water permits for at least a year.
The groundwater management board Tuesday night voted to recommend that Chief Engineer David Barfield temporarily suspend the water appropriation application process in this area, said Equus board member Don Koci, superintendent of water treatment systems for the city of Hutchinson.
The board's action does not affect current water permits nor does it affect pending applications that the district staff has already reviewed, said Equus Beds Manager Tim Boese. Moreover, irrigators and other water users can still file applications during the year suspension but permits will not be approved or denied until the study is finished.
"This will give us time to review the safe yield situation," Boese said. "We are getting a lot more development in that area and before anything gets worse, we want to step back and look at it."
The area suspended is largely south of U.S. 50 between K-17 and Salem Road. District staff will not process new applications as of Oct. 10. The board will still review applications filed before this date for recommended approval or denial.
Boese said board members were getting calls from area residents concerned about the water depletion, which has intensified with the drought. Some are livestock producers concerned that the area could be over appropriated after watching the Ninnescah River dry up this summer.
Water levels in the area have declined from 1 to 7 feet in the past 12 years, Boese said.
While the water level drop is a big part of the issue, Koci said some parts of the area have a thinner saturated thickness.
"It's just something we need to seriously take a good look at - especially in the drought conditions we have," Koci said. "Drought just magnifies or amplifies those conditions but even without the drought, those trend conditions were still there."
Drought the past two years has caused farmers to look at more irrigation sources to keep crops alive, Koci said, adding that there has been a higher number of applications filed during the current dry spell.
From Jan. 1, 2011, through Oct. 1, 2012, producers have filed 23 new water permit applications in this area, including eight in the Pretty Prairie area, 15 in the Partridge area, with the North Fork of the Ninnescah River dividing these two areas.
Boese also estimated there are another three to five applications recently filed that aren't in the system.
"We're concerned that any more development there would exasperate the problem," he said, adding that staff will "review the area to see if there should be any more development allowed or any modifications to the safe yield calculations."
The Equus Beds Aquifer management district includes areas of McPherson, Reno, Harvey and Sedgwick counties.