By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Board members of Upper Republican Natural Resources District approved last week a proposed settlement with four landowners sanctioned last summer for violating district rules.
Last June, the board handed down the stiffest penalty possible by permanently retiring more than 1,400 acres. The landowners were actively bypassing irrigation water flow meters.
In addition, the board retired irrigation on about 780 acres for a period of 10 years.
After the sanctions were handed down, the landowners, Bruce Kramer of Wauneta, Jack Bond and Randall Bond of Greeley, Colo., and Harry Stromberger of Windsor, Colo., appealed the action and requested a formal hearing with the board, as provided for in the NRD’s rules and regulations.
The hearing was never held because the parties and the NRD board and management began discussing a settlement.
The board adopted the proposed settlement and is awaiting acceptance from the four parties involved.
Settlement Mimics Sanctions
Jasper Fanning, manager of the URNRD, said the settlement terms resemble the same sanctions as originally handed down by the board.
Fanning said forging their own settlement with the parties saved thousands of dollars that would have been spent in litigation.
In addition, it allowed staff to concentrate on other important issues, such as the augmentation project. Fanning said that time savings in itself was significant.
The original sanctions called for permanently retiring 1,476.4 acres. Under the settlement, the number of retired acres will total 1,461.4 acres or 15 acres less.
As for 779.4 acres retired for 10 years, the settlement calls for reducing the allocation by 50 percent for 20 years on 850.4 acres and for 15 years on 246 acres.
This totals 317 more acres with allocation restrictions compared to the original sanctions.
Fanning said the settlement still produces the same reduction in consumptive use which benefits the district for compliance purposes.
Allowing half an allocation on nearly 1,100 acres keeps the land on the tax rolls as irrigated land, Fanning noted.
Another Violation Pending
An appeals hearing for another violation has not yet been set.
Last fall, the board significantly reduced allocation on five irrigation wells with active meter bypasses
Last summer, NRD staff members found active bypass mechanisms on five irrigation wells owned by Wilder Farms in Dundy County.
The board’s action is being appealed by Wilder Farms.