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Growing season looks good for irrigators
May 29, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Kay Grote/Gering Citizen - With adequate moisture, area farmers are having good luck with early spring field work. Here, an area producer checks his newly planted corn crop as he begins an afternoon of rotary hoeing west of Scottsbluff near Barn Anew Bed and Breakfast.

Recent moisture and above average snowpack in the mountains to the west have both contributed to a positive outlook for the 2014 irrigation season.

“The soil profile is looking better and better by the day,” said John Berge, director of the North Platte Natural Resources District. “It’s had an impact on soil temperatures and has delayed some producers from getting into the fields, but the alternative would be much worse if we didn’t have these spring rains.”

Berge said they’re also pleased with the reported snowpack in the mountains of northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, which feeds the North Platte River. It’s been running around 130 – 140 percent of normal for this time of year. Another foot of snow was reported about 10 days ago in the Laramie Mountains and the Snowy Range of Wyoming.

“That snowpack feeds not only our river, but also our canal system that has existed for the past 110 years,” Berge said. “It will also help recharge our aquifer.”

He said surface water should be more than sufficient to handle the growing season, but things can change quickly.

As regulators of groundwater, NRD is in the final year of its five-year water allocation for the valley and the three-year allocation for Pumpkin Creek. For the valley, the allocation is if 14 inches per year, or 70 inches over five years. For Pumpkin Creek, the allocation is 12 inches a year or 36 inches over three years.

NRD is also considering some other management techniques to supplement allocations that will need to be rewritten. That might include alternate crops and short and long term leasing arrangements, where acreage can be taken out of production.

“Whatever a producer has for carryover from the allocation will be made available to them this irrigation season,” Berge said. “We anticipate everyone will be able to live within their means and produce a good crop. It looks quite good in terms of groundwater.”
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