ALMA — Average spring static groundwater levels in the Lower Republican Natural Resources District increased slightly overall from 2015 to 2016, according to a draft report shared with the LRNRD board of directors here Thursday.

Scott Dicke, the district’s assistant manager, told board members township average water levels this spring ranged from 3.95 feet above the year-ago level to 2.73 feet lower. The overall average change was positive .22 of one foot.

“I’d say overall the static water levels within the entire district are relatively static,” Dicke told the NRD board during its regular monthly meeting.

The 3.95-foot, year-to-year rise was recorded in Garfield Township in Nuckolls County, in the southeastern corner of the district. The 2.73-foot decline occurred in west central Furnas County; the adjacent township to the west recorded a 2.6-foot decline. For the most part, other changes in township readings from 2015 to 2016 ranged from a 1-foot rise to a 1-foot decline.

The NRD measures the depth to water in designated wells each spring. The district encompasses all of Furnas, Harlan and Franklin counties, plus most of Webster County and southern Nuckolls County. Headquarters are in Alma.

In other news Thursday, the LRNRD board voted 9-0 to ratify the hiring of Olsson Associates, an engineering firm with several Nebraska offices, for engineering services related to the proposed Platte to Republican Basin High Flow Diversion Project.

The PRDP project would take excess Platte River flows down the Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District’s E-65 canal to a spot between Elwood and Smithfield, then pump them a short distance into the east branch of Turkey Creek. The water then would flow in the open channel about 30 miles south and dump into the Republican River between Oxford and Edison.

Dicke said the board of the PRDP entity, an interlocal agency involving the Lower Republican and Tri-Basin NRDs, already had approved a contract worth $237,136 for Olsson. Ratification by both NRDs’ boards is required.

Olsson’s job will be to look at the engineering components of moving the water down Turkey Creek. Once an engineering plan is in place, the appropriate state permits can be sought.

Olsson’s work is to begin immediately.

“We have a draft scope of work we’re ready to execute to get them going quickly,” Dicke said.

Meanwhile  a draft water services agreement between the interlocal entity and CNPPID is in the review process. In his written report to the board for May, Dicke said officials hope that agreement can be finalized this month.

As envisioned, the excess Platte flows would be diverted under a water right that would be junior to all water rights and uses in the Platte River Basin, both present and future. Diversions could occur anytime water flowing in the river was not allocated to another water right. 

Rerouting the excess Platte water into the Republican River could help Nebraska’s fortunes under the interstate Republican River Compact, a 1943 agreement that allocates the waters of the Republican basin to Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.