Rules Change to Help Producers & Protect Groundwater

The Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District (LENRD) Board of Directors met Thursday, April 23 for their monthly meeting.  During the meeting, a public hearing was held to receive public comment on the proposed changes to the LENRD’s groundwater management area rules and regulations.  After hearing testimony from several producers that wanted to develop new irrigated land, the Board approved the proposed changes to the rules.  The Board has been working with staff to modify the district’s rules to allow development of small tracts of land, up to 35 acres, through the district’s expedited variance process.

The new rule applies to producers who fall under either of two very specific categories.

LENRD General Manager, Mike Sousek, said, “The LENRD board felt it important to approve a good cause variance process to address two very specific scenarios which the district encountered during our acre certification process.  One scenario deals with discrepancies discovered with some approved standard variances and the other scenario deals with landowners who were caught in between the rule changes and, through no fault of their own, investments were made and they were not able to complete their irrigation plans.”

Producers who feel they may qualify for a variance under one of the categories should contact the LENRD to apply.  Cooperators will need to provide sufficient evidence that their scenario falls under the good cause variance umbrella.

The district’s old rules didn’t allow for minor modifications when certifying irrigated acres.  Under the rule change, a new category, called a “Variance for Good Cause Shown” will be added to the District’s Expedited Variance Process.  Under this process, the General Manager is authorized to approve or deny applications to add irrigated acres for the situations described above, using a common sense approach.

Sousek added, “The LENRD board will continue to change and modify its groundwater rules and regulations in the future.  These changes will be determined as better science becomes available or when new issues arise, so the district can further develop more comprehensive management plans.  The goal of the LENRD is to promote groundwater development where it is sustainable, all while protecting current and future water users.” 

The new rule becomes effective on May 11th, 2015.