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Minatare accepts water mitigation agreement
April 23, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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The City of Minatare has signed onto an agreement with Scottsbluff and the North Platte Natural Resources District to ensure that any water transfers to the city are accounted for under state statute.
The process, called mitigation, requires both individuals and municipalities to make up for ground water usage when it impacts third parties.

Scottsbluff had agreed to supply Minatare’s water. However, the withdrawal point affected three surface water diverters: Winters Creek Canal Company, Central Irrigation District and Minatare Mutual Canal and Irrigation Company.

Minatare had originally proposed taking about 117 acres of ag land out of production to make up for the city’s usage. But a worst case mitigation scenario required the return of 117 acre feet per year during the irrigation season. That could have potentially cost Minatare nearly $500,000.

NRD officials reviewed the mitigation process and what water credits were available to keep all third parties whole. The agreement called for Minatare to pay a one-time fee of $200 per acre foot, or a total of $23,400.

“This agreement has been a long time coming,” said John Berge, North Platte NRD director. “Before we can sign off on a plan, we have to be sure a mitigation plan is in place. And we didn’t want to put a $500,000 cost on the ratepayers of Minatare.”

Berge added that since Minatare has been receiving water from Scottsbluff, its own wells have been shut off, which allows for water to flow back into the river.
“In doing this process, we’ve saved the need for Minatare to lease water off a tremendous amount of acres,” he said. “This is good news, as all three entities have come to a conclusion that is good for ratepayers, good for third party diverters and it meets our obligations under the statutes. Plus, the agreement could also serve as a framework for future mitigation projects.”

The City of Terrytown will also face mitigation once it connects with a neighboring water system. Due to federal restrictions on contaminants in drinking water, the city has already closed one of its two wells. Terrytown is currently in the middle of a long-term project to replace many of its water mains, connect all residences and businesses to a water metering system and incorporate neighboring Bellevue into the system.

“Our council voted 5-0 to move this forward and sign a partnership agreement with Minatare,” said Scottsbluff Mayor Randy Meininger. “During my tenure, my stance has always been partnerships and what we can do to form those partnerships, provide a quality product and make it sustainable. We believe this is a sustainable plan and we’re happy to be part of it.”

Minatare Mayor Jerry Harms said he’s happy an agreement has been reached after many years of work. And he thanked everyone involved in making it happen.
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