Upper Big Blue Board Approves Rule Changes

The Upper Big Blue NRD Board of Directors met on May 16 and approved changes to District Rule 5 pertaining to groundwater irrigation transfers and artesian wells. After receiving testimony from an April 23 public hearing on two proposed changes to the NRD’s Groundwater Management Rules and Regulations, the Board has now adopted these rule changes.

A groundwater transfer is the act of pumping water from a well in one section of land and piping it to another section of land to irrigate. The NRD has had regulations limiting such transfers since 1982; however, the newly adopted regulations would prohibit new groundwater irrigation transfers in designated marginal groundwater areas. The rule change does not affect groundwater transfers that already exist.

Existing groundwater transfers in the designated areas may continue, but may not increase irrigated acres. The areas that are now closed to new transfers are shown on the attached “ No Groundwater Transfer in Designated Areas” map. Portions of the NRD that are not designated as a no groundwater transfer in designated areas on the map, must still be authorized by the NRD Board of Directors prior to implementing the project. Existing regulations already limit the size and distance that groundwater may be transferred.

The second regulation change addresses artesian wells. An artesian well is a well from which groundwater flows under natural pressure. This occurs when a well is constructed in to a groundwater aquifer that is “confined” by a layer of clay material which the water cannot flow through naturally; and the groundwater is under pressure that is great enough to push the water up the well casing to a point above the land surface. This condition occurs in a few areas of the NRD. The major area where it is known to occur during the fall and winter months is in the Beaver Creek Valley and the west fork of the Big Blue River Valley in eastern York and western Seward counties near the Village of Beaver Crossing.

Three additions to the regulations are now enacted regarding artesian wells. They are: 1). Artesian wells constructed on or after July 1, 2013, must be operated in such a manner as to prevent groundwater from the well to flow out and run to waste in an amount that exceeds what will flow through a pipe one-half inch in diameter; 2). Artesian wells constructed prior to July 1, 2013, may continue to operate as constructed until such time that the allocation provisions of the Groundwater Management Area regulations are implemented. Upon implementation of allocation, artesian wells must be operated in such a manner as to prevent groundwater from a well to flow out and run to waste in an amount that exceeds what will flow through a pipe one-half inch in diameter; and, 3). An artesian well decommissioned after July 1, 2013, must be decommissioned in such a manner as to stop the flow of groundwater to waste.

A copy of the new rule changes to Rule 5 is available upon request at the NRD office at 105 N. Lincoln Avenue, York. Activities and projects of the Upper Big Blue NRD are reviewed and approved by a locally elected Board of Directors. The Upper Big Blue NRD is one of 23 Natural Resources Districts across the state. For more information call 402-362-6601.

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