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Polis signs bill authorizing more well retirement funds

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By Payton Liming
RRWCD Administration Asst.

The combined teams from the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) are proud to announce the accomplishment of receiving unanimous approval of Senate Bill 22-028 (SB22-028) by the Colorado General Assembly.
Governor Polis signed the bill on Monday, May 23, in Alamosa. SB 22-028 provides $60 million ($30 million to each district) from American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds (ARPA) to assist in the retirement of irrigated acres as required by compacts in each district.
The RRWCD is tasked by the state of Colorado with retiring 10,000 irrigated acres by December 31, 2024 and an additional 15,000 irrigated acres by the end of 2029, in the South Fork Focus Zone (SFFZ), an area of land along the South Fork of the Republican River which covers portions of Kit Carson and Yuma counties.
Failure to achieve the required dry-up of irrigated acres would result in Colorado being out of compliance with the 2016 Resolution of the Republican River Compact Administration that settled the litigation among Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. Through the Resolution, Colorado receives 100 percent credit for the water delivered by the Compact Compliance Pipeline (CCP) to the North Fork Republican River but also must achieve the acreage retirement.
If 25,000 acres are not retired in the SFFZ by the end of 2029, Colorado could be out of compact compliance, and State Engineer Kevin Rein has stated he would shut down all irrigation wells and possibly other groundwater uses in the Republican River basin.
During the recent quarterly Board meeting, the RRWCD passed Resolution 22-03 which increases the capital available for program payments using the funds received through SB22-028. Starting in 2022, new CREP, EQIP and RAMP contract payments for the retirement of wells located in the SFFZ will be increased by $750 per acre. CREP payments are $5,250 per acre in the SFFZ. EQIP payments are $4,250 per acre in the SFFZ. RAMP (only available to well owners within the SFFZ) payments are $2,750 per acre.
If you were turned away from the NRCS office, when showing interest in a RAMP contract please contact the RRWCD office. An addition to Resolution 22-03 allows the RRWCD to fully fund the RAMP program contracts when federal agency funds are not available.
The District works with the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through their programs to get the acres retired through CREP (FSA) and EQIP (NRCS). If you have any interest in retiring acres, please make sure to reach out to the RRWCD office at 970-332-3552 and the FSA or NRCS offices for your county.
For the conservation program contracts, the RRWCD analyzes the acres certified through FSA 578 forms and corresponding maps for the last 5-6 years, as well as the irrigated acres certified at the county assessor’s office, and the acres allowed by the well permit. After evaluating the gathered information, the District contacts the well owner to set up a meeting and discuss future steps. At that point, the RRWCD reaches out to the local FSA office or NRCS office relevant to the application for a conservation program contract.
While the District works hand-in-hand with these offices, it is always best to contact the RRWCD and make sure the property will qualify for a conservation contract. There are pumping requirements which must be met before a well owner can apply for our programs. The District also pays different rates throughout the basin based upon whether your well is located inside the SFFZ or outside the SFFZ.
If you are interested in programs or have questions about how the RRWCD operates, please call the RRWCD at 970-332-3552 or 970-630-3525 or go online to www.republicanriver.com.