Rock Creek Project Begins Water Deliveries

Southwest Nebraska augmentation wells will aid Republican River flows.

Published on: Mar 14, 2013

A Dundy County water project built by the Upper Republican NRD has begun delivering water to the Republican River.

The Rock Creek streamflow augmentation project operating in late February, but only at about half of its full capacity, says Jasper Fanning, the NRD's general manager. "It will be at full capacity in the near future," he adds.

Rock Creek is a tributary of the Republican River and joins the Republican just outside of Parks in southwest Nebraska.

 "The United States Geological Survey operates a stream gauge at Parks and the most recent reading from the gauge indicated Rock Creek flows were 24 cubic feet per second," Fanning adds. Flows registered before the NRD began operating the project were about 7 cfs. Engineers have determined that Rock Creek has plenty of capacity to handle the additional flows, he adds.

HEADED TO THE RIVER: The Upper Republican NRDs Rock Creek
HEADED TO THE RIVER: The Upper Republican NRD's Rock Creek

"We're very pleased that the project is operating as we expected, and such a large percentage of the water we are providing is already reaching the Republican River," according to Fanning. "It will help both groundwater and surface water users throughout the Republican Basin without creating additional demands on the Ogallala Aquifer that is so vital to the future of this region."

The project has the potential to help surface water users by decreasing the amount of time that surface water availability is curtailed by the state to help ensure compliance with the Republican River Compact. It could help allow the continued use of surface water that otherwise would be shutdown to achieve compliance with the three-state Republican River Compact.

For groundwater users, the project will help prevent severe and sudden regulations of their water use to maintain Compact compliance. Non-agricultural water users could also benefit due to the groundwater recharge that occurs as the Rock Creek water makes its way downstream, Fanning says.

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~The project is a result of Upper Republican's purchase in early 2011 of 3,260 irrigated acres several miles north of Parks near what used to be the headwaters of Rock Creek. By retiring the land from irrigated production, the NRD is able to increase streamflows by using water that otherwise would have been pumped on the land and consumed by crops. Ten wells on the property are plumbed together and connected to a main 24-inch pipeline that is about seven miles long. The end of the pipeline is located a little more than a mile north of the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery, which contributes to the production of nearly half of the trout stocked throughout Nebraska.

Restoration of grass on the previously irrigated cropland is being funded with a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, which is funded by proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery. The NRD applied for a NET grant and was awarded a $735,000 this year with the potential to receive another $105,000 next year.

Four NRDs--Upper, Middle, Lower Republican NRDs and the Twin Platte NRD--are working on a much larger streamflow enhancement project in Lincoln County. A lawsuit filed by Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District and Bostwick Irrigation District has temporarily delayed the project.

For more information about the Rock Creek project, contact the Upper Republican NRD at 308-882-5173.

Source: Upper Republican NRD