Nebraska officials aren’t exactly “gunning” for the man who stole their water but they will arrest him when they find him. What he did may have been an eco-terror statement, trying to save the rare and precious fluid from evil local farmers, but it wasn’t nice. It didn’t really do any environmental good either.
Crops suffer from stolen water
As near as they can figure, sometime around 10:30 p.m., on Saturday, August 20, “someone was at the diversion dam and opened two gates at the Cambridge Canal allowing for thousands of dollars of irrigation water to go down that river.” The elixir of life which should have been diverted to local food crops was flushed straight down the Republican River, in some sort of failed eco-terror statement.
The vegans over at PETA are screaming about the the poor defenseless plants suffering in the heat. “NRD, irrigation districts, and the farmers, we spend millions of dollars to conserve all the water we can, and then some knothead comes along and just pulls the plug and sends it all down the river and puts everyone behind, and costs everyone a lot of money, it’s a bad deal,” laments Clark Andrews. He’s a farmer and NRD Board Member. All of Furnas County is feeling the heat, he declares. “It’s a really tough situation here in Furnas County especially the western part of Furnas County.”
Local residents and farmers lost half the reserve stored behind the dam in a matter of hours. That’s more of a crisis than people imagine. Every gallon is accounted for and the price of dihydrogen monoxide is spiking like it was gasoline or something.
The Frenchman Cambridge Irrigation District is a federal project which serves “around 45,600 acres with surface, or ditch water.” There’s a huge demand on their four canal systems. The district manages three reservoirs to draw the liquid from. “I wouldn’t want to be the people who did this at this point in time,” Andrews added.
According to the manager at FCID, Brad Edgerton, “we are in a pretty serious drought right now, there’s not a lot of water in the river.” That means all of it “is coming from the reservoirs.”
The town didn’t have a drop to spare to start with. To “eliminate water spill, the irrigation district makes changes at the reservoirs to perfectly match the demand on the systems.”
A big disappointment for all
The resource manager points out that what the person or group did “was a big disappointment for farmers around the area.” The entire irrigation district will suffer for it.
“This year we haven’t had hardly any rain, and we are trying to stretch our water supply as long as we can, it was just unfortunate that something like this happened.” There is reward money out to anyone with solid information. If you want to claim the bounty, call the Furnas County Sheriff’s Office.
The district “serves between 350 and 375 farmers, and they pay $52.20 per acre foot.” Bottom line, Edgerton explains, “Saturday night around $2,500 to $3,000 worth of water was lost.” On Sunday morning, the district started making calls.
Officials had to notify “those farmers with center pivots on the canal,” Those pivots get damaged without something to pump through. The river gates were closed and the district yelled for help from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
“We ordered more water for the reservoir so we could put it in the canal and get the canal full again,” Edgerton assures. They had things back to normal by Sunday night. “The one or the ones who committed the action manually had to turn a big, heavy wheel to open the gates.” It’s missing. They expect to find it at the bottom of the dam once they shut down at the end of the season for cleaning.
They were nice enough to allow locals to use the site as a picnic grounds. “Anyone can have access to the diversion dam, as it even has spaces for picnics.” After the incident happened, “the canal gates now have better locks,” Edgerton informs. He’s also a realist. “Locks keep the honest people out.” He’s talking to the board about buying some cameras, too.