LLNRD Board Will Allow 2,750 New Irrigated Acres in 2021

Landowners in three river basins in the Lower Loup Natural Resources District (LLNRD) may apply for new groundwater irrigated acres for 2021.  The Lower Loup NRD Board of Directors approved the new irrigation at its meeting May 28th.   There will be 750 irrigated acres granted In the Middle Loup Basin, 1,250 acres in the North Loup, and 750 acres will be available in the Beaver Creek/Plum Creek/Loup River Basin.

A map showing the areas where new irrigation will be allowed can be found here.  Zoom in to determine whether a specific section of land will qualify.

NRD General Manager Russell Callan said that the new irrigation development was approved after a review of the available water in the NRD. He said that studies still showed a “surplus” in the water budget created for the approved sub-basins of the Loup River Basin. Water quality was also a consideration.

Applications for new irrigation will be accepted Sept. 1-20, 2020 only.  A non-refundable fee of $500 will be required with each application and only one application will be allowed per field. Due to restrictions in place due to the COVID 19 pandemic, those with interest in applying or seeking answers to questions are urged to telephone the District Headquarters office at (308) 728-3221.  The LLNRD office in Ord is staffed but remains closed to the public.

LLNRD Assistant Manager Tylr Naprstek said that application forms for new irrigated acres will be available to potential applicants later this summer, online as well as at NRCS offices in the District, and at the NRD Headquarters office, 2620 Airport Drive, in Ord. Landowners will be notified of their application’s score and overall outcome by December 1st.  

The application form will require information on the landowner and/or their contact person, field description and FSA aerial photo clearly depicting the field, number of acres of new irrigation requested, and application fee.

New irrigated acres are an option for landowners in portions of Boone, Custer, Garfield, Greeley, Howard, Loup, Merrick, Nance, Platte, Sherman, Rock, Valley, and Wheeler. In the District’s one area of groundwater increase in parts of Custer, Loup, Valley, and Sherman Counties, extra points will be allotted to the application scores.

New irrigation allocation is not allowed for areas south of the Middle Loup and Loup River as well as in the Cedar River Basin, the area east of Columbus, and the South Loup River basin due to negative changes to the groundwater and surface water supplies.  Water Quality Management Areas, Wellhead Protection Areas, and areas of well interference are also ineligible.

New surface water irrigation may also result following the approval of new groundwater acres.  Callan said that under the Integrated Management Plan developed by the LLNRD and the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), one surface water acre of new irrigation could also be developed for every three new groundwater irrigated acres.

Naprstek said that, as in the past, applications for new irrigation will be ranked using criteria approved by the NRD board when irrigated acres were previously granted. Criteria includes stream depletion factors, status of area groundwater and surface water, number of acres being developed, soil classification, and density of pre-existing irrigation.